Eliciting expert knowledge to inform landscape modeling of conservation scenarios


Price, Jessica; Silbernagel, Janet; Miller, Nicholas; Swaty, Randy; White, Mark; Nixon, Kristina

Journal or Book Title: Ecological Modelling

Keywords: scenario analysis; spatial narratives; conservation effectiveness; ecosystem services; landscape change; climate change

Volume/Issue: 229/March 24, 2012

Page Number(s): 76-87

Year Published: 2012


Conservation and land management organizations such as The Nature Conservancy are developing strategies to distribute conservation efforts over larger areas. Relative to fee-simple protection efforts, strategies that allow ecologically sustainable timber harvest and recreation activities, such as working forest conservation easements, should yield greater socioeconomic benefits (ecosystem services) with less investment per area without significantly compromising the conservation of biodiversity (ecological targets). At the same time, climate change may profoundly influence forest resilience to management strategies in the coming century. As a result, there are many possible scenarios for the future of our forests and significant uncertainty for practitioners and decision makers. Yet, monitoring efforts aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of conservation strategies span decades or longer, leading to a lag in knowledge transfer and delayed adaptive management.

To explore potential outcomes for biodiversity, provisioning of ecosystem services, and resilience of our forests resulting from various management strategies and climate change projections, we developed an approach that integrates quantitative, spatially explicit landscape modeling with scenario-building informed by expert knowledge. In this paper, we present our experiences applying this approach to two conservation project areas in the western Great Lakes region of the U.S.

For each project area, spatially explicit landscape simulations were performed using the VDDT©/TELSA© software suite (ESSA Technologies, Ltd.). At key points in the process, we infused the modeling efforts with expert knowledge via interactive in-person or web-based workshops and an online collaborative tool. Here, we capture our experiences applying the scenario building and modeling approach to forests in the western Great Lakes region and our efforts to make the process transparent and responsive to local and regional experts. It is our intent that this approach be transferable and implemented in future landscape scale conservation projects.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.09.010

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Publisher: Elsevier