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State-and-transition simulation modeling to compare outcomes of alternative management scenarios under two natural disturbance regimes in a forested landscape in northeastern Wisconsin, USA

1 University of Wisconsin at Madison, The Nelson Institute, 550 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA;
2 The Nature Conservancy, LANDFIRE Team, 101 South Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855, USA;
3 The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Field Office, 633 West Main Street, Madison, WI 53703, USA

Special Issues: 2nd State-and-Transition Simulation Modeling Conference

Comparisons of the potential outcomes of multiple land management strategies and an understanding of the influence of potential increases in climate-related disturbances on these outcomes are essential for long term land management and conservation planning. To provide these insights, we developed an approach that uses collaborative scenario development and state-and-transition simulation modeling to provide land managers and conservation practitioners with a comparison of potential landscapes resulting from alternative management scenarios and climate conditions, and we have applied this approach in the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest (WRLF) area in northeastern Wisconsin. Three management scenarios were developed with input from local land managers, scientists, and conservation practitioners: 1) continuation of current management, 2) expanded working forest conservation easements, and 3) cooperative ecological forestry. Scenarios were modeled under current climate with contemporary probabilities of natural disturbance and under increased probability of windthrow and wildfire that may result from climate change in this region. All scenarios were modeled for 100 years using the VDDT/TELSA modeling suite. Results showed that landscape composition and configuration were relatively similar among scenarios, and that management had a stronger effect than increased probability of windthrow and wildfire. These findings suggest that the scale of the landscape analysis used here and the lack of differences in predominant management strategies between ownerships in this region play significant roles in scenario outcomes. The approach used here does not rely on complex mechanistic modeling of uncertain dynamics and can therefore be used as starting point for planning and further analysis.
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