What Makes for a Resilient Landscape? Climate, Fire and Forests in the Northern Rockies
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Monica G. Turner
    University of Wisconsin
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
  • Daniel C. Donato
    Washington State Department of Natural Resources
  • Adena R. Rissman
    University of Wisconsin
  • Anthony L. Westerling
    University of California-Merced
  • Brian J. Harvey
    University of Washington, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Rupert Seidl
  • Winslow D. Hansen
    University of Wisconsin-Madison

Cataloging Information

  • FVS - Forest Vegetation Simulator
  • iLand model
  • resilience
JFSP Project Number(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 14, 2016
FRAMES Record Number: 22257


Resilient landscapes are a fundamental goal of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, yet defining, measuring and managing for resilience remain major challenges. Ecological resilience theory is well developed, but how to operationalize resilience in actual landscapes is unclear, especially in a no-analog future. Fire and forest managers would benefit from knowing how to measure resilience; where, when and why resilience may be lost; and what management options can promote resilience. We propose to quantify ecological and social dimensions of resilience for Northern Rocky Mountain forests and to develop innovative scientific methods for operationalizing forest and landscape resilience concepts. Guided by participatory workshops with stakeholders, we will determine how 21st-century climate and fire regimes are likely to alter the resilience of Northern Rocky Mountain forests and identify management options likely to promote landscape resilience under a range of possible futures. First, we will engage fire, fuels and resource managers and stakeholders at a 'Dimensions of Resilience' workshop to identify social and ecological dimensions of resilience, i.e., the multiple characteristics they want to sustain throughout the 21st century, and management options to explore given changing climate and fire regimes. Informed by this stakeholder input, we will then combine state-of-the-art projections of future climate and fire with extensive data on post-fire forest dynamics to model alternative future scenarios and evaluate ecological and social dimensions of resilience through the 21st century at three spatial scales. (i) Stand: How and why might warming climate and changing fire regimes push forest stands over a tipping point? Fire is the dominant disturbance shaping Northern Rockies forests, and post-fire tree regeneration is fundamental to stand-level resilience. We will evaluate mechanisms behind tipping points in a range of future climate-fire scenarios, using the empirically based Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) and a next-generation process-based model (iLand) that can respond dynamically to novel conditions. (ii) Landscape: Where and when might projected changes in climate and fire activity interact with management to enhance or erode landscape resilience? Abrupt transitions at the stand level may scale up and erode landscape resilience, or they may smooth out over larger areas as forest dynamics respond to changing conditions. We will simulate an array of representative Northern Rockies landscapes (areas of wildland-urban interface, production forestry, and wilderness) and potential management options using the spatially explicit implementation of iLand. (iii) Region: How do stand and landscape indicators of resilience scale to the Northern Rockies ecoregion, and what geographical areas are most likely to be vulnerable or resilient to changing climate and fire regimes? We will develop innovative statistical approaches to extrapolate stand- and landscape-level results and assess regional resilience. Probabilistic maps of the resilience indicators generated with stakeholders will be produced to identify geographic areas at risk for crossing tipping points under alternative scenarios. Finally, informed by model and scenario results, we will re-convene with stakeholders at a 'Learning about Resilient Futures' workshop to jointly interpret effects of changing climate, fire and management on dimensions of landscape resilience articulated at the first workshop and to specify outreach products. Goals include understanding conditions and management options that promote resilient landscapes and elucidating synergies and tradeoffs among multiple dimensions of resilience. This project will directly benefit fire and forest managers by making resilience concepts useful for managing landscapes during times of profound environmental change.