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A state-and-transition simulation modeling approach for estimating the historical range of variability

Kori Blankenship Leonardo Frid James L. Smith

*Corresponding author: Kori Blankenship kblankenship@tnc.org

environmental2015,2,253doi:10.3934/environsci.2015.2.253

Reference ecological conditions offer important context for land managers as they assess the condition of their landscapes and provide benchmarks for desired future conditions. State-and-transition simulation models (STSMs) are commonly used to estimate reference conditions that can be used to evaluate current ecosystem conditions and to guide land management decisions and activities. The LANDFIRE program created more than 1,000 STSMs and used them to assess departure from a mean reference value for ecosystems in the United States. While the mean provides a useful benchmark, land managers and researchers are often interested in the range of variability around the mean. This range, frequently referred to as the historical range of variability (HRV), offers model users improved understanding of ecosystem function, more information with which to evaluate ecosystem change and potentially greater flexibility in management options. We developed a method for using LANDFIRE STSMs to estimate the HRV around the mean reference condition for each model state in ecosystems by varying the fire probabilities. The approach is flexible and can be adapted for use in a variety of ecosystems. HRV analysis can be combined with other information to help guide complex land management decisions.

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