Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y082027

    Incorporation of wildlife habitat capability into the multi-value, spatially-explicit, complex cutblock ecosystem management model LLEMS
Project lead: Kimmins, Hamish (University of British Columbia)
Contributing Authors: Seely, Brad A.; Kimmins, J.P. (Hamish); Scoullar, Kim
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
For 31 years I have been developing ecosystem management simulation models as decision support systems (DSSs). At the ecosystem level rather than the population or community levels, these models have the ability to address multiple values and environmental services, natural and management-induced ecosystem disturbance, and the implications of climate change for ecosystem processes, structures and values. The non-spatial ecosystem management model FORECAST is used internationally, and by forest and energy companies and government agencies in the three western Canadian provinces. Starting 5 years ago, we have worked to extend this model to a spatial local landscape version in the model LLEMS (Local Landscape Ecosystem Management Simulator) funded by FRDA, FRBC, NSERC (Discovery and CRD grants) and INTERFOR. What is FORECAST? It is a stand-level, non-spatial, ecosystem management model, derived from the earlier FORCYTE model (Kimmins 1985, 1986, 1992; Kimmins et al. 1990, 1999, Messier et al. 2003, Seely et al. 1999, 2004). It has the capability of representing a wide range of management activities and natural disturbance agents. FORECAST can be used to project tree and minor vegetation biomass by biomass component, and tree dbh and total and merchantable volume; tree and minor vegetation height (for trees, the heights and dbh distributions of trees in tree lists); shading profiles, carbon budgets, soil fertility and nutrient dynamics; soil organic matter; snags and CWD. In recognition of the importance of wildlife as an SFM value, we investigated adding a generic, user-defined wildlife habitat supply module to FORECAST (Goodinson, MSc 2000), and concluded that assessment of habitat values at the stand level can be significantly compromised by the type, condition and habitat values of the surrounding ecosystems (i.e. the landscape context of the stand in question; Turner 1989; Andrén 1994; Carey et al. 1997; Serrouya and D’Eon 2004). More recently, we continued our work to develop a generalized habitat suitability sub-model for FORECAST (Simons, MSc 2005) with the intention of linking this to LLEMS so that the implications of landscape context for stand-level habitat values can be investigated. In this proposal we wish to complete the linkage of this sub-model to FORECAST, and extend the sub-model to LLEMS. What is LLEMS? - The LLEMS modelling framework was constructed using a common raster-based GIS platform to facilitate the linkage of series of existing models (see below). This ecologically based, spatially explicit, decision-support tool enables the user to explore the long-term consequences of the implementation of a wide variety of cutblock shapes, orientations, and variable retention strategies for a series of economic, ecological, and social (e.g. visual) indicators of SFM. The modelling framework operates at a spatial scale of an intermediate to large size cutblock or group of cutblocks (up to 5000 ha in size). Growth within LLEMS is ultimately driven at the pixel or pixel-group level (with a minimum resolution of 10m x 10m) based on a modified version of the FORECAST model. The focus of the principal components of the LLEMS framework includes: the simulation of forest growth and development, the visual management interface and tools for exporting model output to visualization systems, and the evaluation of windthrow risk associated with different cutblock designs. The present capabilities of the model include a representation of the effects of forest edges on natural regeneration patterns, light availability, and resource partitioning between species. Model performance is currently being evaluated on a series of test sites with Interfor as the industry partner. The visual management interface designed specifically for LLEMS by the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning lab at UBC allows the user to explore the target area in real time and to select areas within the larger area using a mouse. Once an area is selected it can be harvested by a variety of systems with varying levels of retention and a range of planting options. After a series of spatial management choices is defined, the layout is sent to the growth model and growth to a predetermined time in the future is simulated. The interface permits the user to design complex cutblocks and then track the consequences for a variety of values over a rotation. LLEMS has been developed with Interfor, whose foresters have participated in workshops to ensure that the design of this DSS meets their needs. Industry (Timber West and Interfor) have indicated that the addition of wildlife habitat would enhance the value of LLEMS to their management planning. Rationale and Research Question Certification and gaining a social license to manage public forests requires value tradeoff analyses and consideration of possible future trends (scenario analyses) for multiple ecosystem values and environmental services (Vanclay 2003). Forecasting such trends requires knowledge based on both experience and research, but much of the latter is disciplinary in nature and not at the spatial, temporal and complexity scales of the issues of sustainability and stewardship (Kimmins et al. 2005). Making wrong choices about management can be very costly – environmentally, socially and economically. Long term field trials are valuable, but they take a long time, by which time climate, social values and biotic conditions may have changed. Few alternatives can be examined in such trials for reasons of cost and area, and once established the trials generally cannot be changed to suit changing circumstances. There is an urgent need, therefore, to combine our experience and science-based understanding into forecasting systems, especially when dealing with new and essentially untested (over a full rotation) systems such as Variable Retention (Mitchell and Beese 2002; Serrouya and D’Eon 2004). The outcome of this project will be the extension of an existing advanced, complex cutblock design and management model so that it can address key habitat issues of selected wildlife species or guilds (based on many years of published research in the literature on wildlife habitat needs). Some of the key questions that will be explored with this tool include the following: • Which cutblock designs, harvest systems and landscape patterns will offer the best balance of outcomes for multiple values at the local landscape level over one or multiple rotations? • How effective is visualization in the communication of the possible outcomes of alternative harvest and management designs to different stakeholders to generate trust and public support for forest management?
Related projects:  FSP_Y071027
Contact: Seely, Brad, (604) 822-8958,


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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