Harvard Forest and The Smithsonian Institution / Future Scenarios of Landscape Change in the U.S.

David Foster: drfoster@fas.harvard.edu
Jonathan Thompson: ThompsonJR@si.edu

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

The project is emerging form the NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research program and seeks to: develop plausible narratives for the future of major U.S. forest regions with regards especially to climate change and land-use change; expand understanding of the potential consequences of global change on forest conditions and ecosystems services at landscape to regional scales; and provide scientific resources to guide forest policy, conservation and management and promote long-term resilience and adaptability.

Key Academic Disciplines 

This is an ecological study that employs scenario science, which involves GIS and modeling of future landscape conditions.

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

The Massachusetts effort is most advanced and is being used as a prototype for a New England-wide effort that will parallel the scale and growth of the Wildlands and Woodlands effort.  The MA effort engages groups from the Harvard Forest at Harvard University (David Foster), the Smithsonian Institute for Conservation Biology (Jonathan Thompson), University of Massachusetts (David Kittredge), the Wildlands and Woodlands project (Emily Bateson), and the newly formed Northeastern Science and Policy Consortium (Kathy Lambert, Director).

Initiative History and Champions 

While the effort is still emerging, its early test points included getting buy-in from scientists, the LTER program, public leaders and agencies, and peer-reviewed journals.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

The effort is distinctive in actively partnering with conservation organizations and efforts like Highstead and W&W, by working closely with stakeholders to develop plausible scenarios and guide the research, and in using the project as pone of the major efforts of the new NSPC, which has an explicit goal of bridging the divide between science and policy.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

The initiative proved to be effective is generating strong support through the scientific and funding community.  However, recently it is clear that this approach taken by scientists and involving partnering with organizations that can assist in identifying effective directions for the coupling of conservation and development is extremely attractive to public agencies and their leadership.

Transferability of the Initiative 

The approach that is being used in this effort is widely transferrable and that goal is a major objective of the initiative.  The transferability is demonstrated by application across numerous other regions and the interest in applying this widely, even nationally within the LTER network.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

It is likely that it will be desirable to continue to undertake new scenario efforts in the future.