Land Use Change in Northern Forests: Assessments and Recommendations for Conserving Biodiversity

Personnel: Austin Troy, Therese Donovan, and Alexei Voinov

Cooperators: Northeastern States Research Cooperative, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics

This project looks at the impacts of urban growth and land use change on metrics of biodiversity. It seeks to understand the connections between urban sprawl and fragmenting habitat through a coordinated field and modeling effort. The research goal is to predict how land use change will affect biodiversity across Vermont at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and, based on those results, to assess the implications for biodiversity of current and alternative land use policies. Coordinated assessments of biodiversityacross Vermont are being used to build predictive models of occurrence for a variety of taxa. Meanwhile, urban growth for Vermont is being simulated under a variety of policy scenarios, including no change in current policies. For each policy scenario, the corresponding impact on biodiversity will be quantified. Finally, spatial optimization methods will be used to identify land use patterns that are optimal for conserving an array of species, subject to socio-economic constraints. The proposed research will result in a decision-making tool that informs stakeholders of how projected land use change scenarios will likely affect different levels of biodiversity. This tool will allow policies to be driven by their potential effects on biodiversity, thereby permitting proactive land use planning that maximizes conservation value in this region. My role in the project is creating the urban growth/land use change simulation and mapping the resulting fragmentation of the landscape. The model we will use is UrbanSim, an economically-based dynamic disequilibrium model that allows for prediction under a variety of policy scenarios.

       Updated: 12 December 2002