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Monday, April 9 • 11:15am - 11:30am
PEOPLE AND LANDSCAPES: Integrating Stakeholder Feedback with Land Use Change Models to Predict Future Scenarios of Forest Loss and Landscape Configuration

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AUTHORS: Iara Lacher*, Tom Akre, William McShea, Jonathan Thompson, Craig Fergus – Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

ABSTRACT: Human activity has altered over 50 % of the terrestrial landscape, with detrimental effects on ecosystems. If the current trend continues, biodiversity loss will intensify with potentially irreversible consequences on wildlife and human well-being. Advances in satellite data, GIS, and statistical modeling can provide a unique opportunity for tracking global change and understanding underlying drivers. These data are essential to planning for a brighter future, but only if we can connect to and engage with decision makers on issues of mutual benefit. Our research integrates feedback from regional stakeholders into a spatially explicit land use change model to illustrate future landscapes under five different scenarios. We developed scenarios with a group of stakeholders with diverse natural resource and socio-economic backgrounds. These scenarios represent futures spanning wide demographic differences and planning efforts that range from strategic to opportunistic. Starting with environmental and socio-economic data, we incorporated local knowledge of future development densities and a logistic growth sub-model using population projections provided by academics and state governments. We used the modeling platform DinamicaEGO to create maps representing 50-year projections in land use change for each scenario. Projected land use futures demonstrated how each scenario affected the total area and overall connectivity of forest patches in our study area of Northwestern VA. Overall, forest cover decreased in every scenario, however patch size, core area, and spatial configuration differed depending on whether development concentrated near urban areas or sprawled across the landscape. In addition, all scenarios resulted in a loss of forested buffers around large, existing protected lands. The spatial configuration of forests and their role as protected areas buffers is relevant to wildlife conservation, recreation, and freshwater provisioning and quality. Our approach illustrates an example for how to balance engagement, credibility, saliency, and legitimacy in the burgeoning field of translational ecology.

Monday April 9, 2018 11:15am - 11:30am CDT
LaSalle 2 (7th Floor)