Forest Conservation Scenarios

Collaborative modeling of forest conservation scenarios sheds light into possible landscape futures for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Project goals

Distributing conservation efforts over larger areas and a broader range of ownerships and management techniques is a strategy often used by organizations such as The Nature Conservation. Blending resource extraction, such as sustainable timber harvest, with conservation, it’s thought, should yield greater socio-economic benefits without significantly compromising the conservation of biodiversity or the sustainable provisioning of ecosystem services.

In this collaborative project between our team then at UW-Madison, The Nature Conservancy, and LandFire, we worked with local and regional experts to build and model landscape scenarios to evaluate the effectiveness of various conservation strategies under climate change pressures. This project focused on two study sites – the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest in northeastern Wisconsin and the Two Hearted River Watershed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

What we did

Our project team worked with local experts to create and run alternative landscape scenarios for each project area using spatial modeling tools and by modifying vegetation models previously created by LANDFIRE.  The landscape scenarios represented ‘what-if’s’ under varying management goals and projected increased fire due to climate change.

To compare the conservation effectiveness of each scenario, our partners helped identify key wildlife targets and we evaluated their potential response to the projected landscape changes.

Lastly, we wanted to facilitate sharing and evaluation of scenario outcomes with forest managers and partners so we created and hosted a suite of comparative webmaps through the project website.

Tools Used


VDDT (state and transition modeling tool)

TELSA (tool for ecological landscape scenario assessment)

ArcGIS Storymaps and webmaps

Two-hearted River watershed, Upper Michigan

Wild Rivers Legacy Forest, northern Wisconsin