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Remote Sensing And Gis In Ecosystem Management

Remote Sensing And Gis In Ecosystem Management

by Al Sample (Editor), American Forests, American Forests (Other)

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<p>Recent advances in remote-sensing technology and the processing of remote-sensing data through geographic information systems (GIS) present ecologists and resource managers with a tremendously valuable tool - but only if they are able to understand its capabilities and capture its potential.<p>Remote Sensing and GIS in Ecosystem Management identifies and


<p>Recent advances in remote-sensing technology and the processing of remote-sensing data through geographic information systems (GIS) present ecologists and resource managers with a tremendously valuable tool - but only if they are able to understand its capabilities and capture its potential.<p>Remote Sensing and GIS in Ecosystem Management identifies and articulates current and emerging information needs of those involved with the management of forest ecosystems. It explores the potential of remote-sensing/GIS technologies to address those needs, examining: <ul> <li>the need for landscape-scale analysis to support forest ecosystem research and management <li>current challenges in the development of remote-sensing/GIS applications <li>case studies of different forest regions in the United States <li>the potential for further development or declassification of military and aerospace remote-sensing/GIS technologies </ul> As well as providing important information for ecologists and resource managers, the book will serve as a valuable resource for legislative and judicial policymakers who do not have a technical background in either remote sensing or resource management but who are nonetheless called upon to make decisions regarding the protection and management of forest ecosystems.

Editorial Reviews

This valuable set of articles, originally based on an unnamed conference, identifies the information needs of ecologists and resource managers for use in policy development and decision-making regarding forest ecosystem management; explores the applications of remote sensing/GIS technology to address those information needs; and provides a basic information resource for policymakers who lack technical background in these areas. Contains four ecosystem case studies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Island Press
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Remote Sensing and GIS in Ecosystem Management

By V. Alaric Sample


Copyright © 1994 Island Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55963-285-0


Part I

Emerging Information Needs for the Protection and Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems


Developing Landscape-Scale Information to Meet Ecological, Economic, and Social Needs

William P. Gregg, Jr.

There is a growing consensus among managers and the public that natural resources should be managed according to principles of sustainability. Management practices must be ecologically sound, economically feasible, and socially and politically acceptable (Salwasser et al. 1992). Ecosystems are increasingly seen as fundamental units of interaction between people and Nature. Management goals must be holistic. They must reflect clear vision of the desired condition of the land to maintain aesthetics, soil processes, water quality and availability, atmospheric composition, native biological diversity, and areas of special sensitivity to disturbance. They must also reflect a clear vision for maintaining the health, economic prosperity, cultural diversity, and social well-being of the human communities of today and tomorrow. In addition, management practices to implement these goals must take into account the many uncertainties that affect natural and human systems, and the interacting effects of local decisions and regional and global conditions and trends. They must be based on an ethic of cooperation, in which people are seen as partners in planning and decision-making.

Ecosystem management is a process for implementing principles of sustainability. The process can apply to any geographic area where integrated approaches to achieve desired ecological conditions are practicable. However, ecosystem management most often applies to large geographic areas, which have been referred to as greater ecosystems (Grumbine 1990, Clark and Zaunbrecher 1987), regional ecosystems (Keystone Center 1991), regional landscapes (Noss 1983), and biogeocultural regions (U.S. MAB 1989). Although there is substantial recent literature on ecosystem management, a detailed definition has not yet become widely accepted. However, the following characteristics are frequently mentioned (Clark and Harvey 1988, Grumbine 1990, Noss 1990, 1992, Salwasser et al. 1992). Ecosystem management areas are typically open-ended. They are large enough to maintain viable populations of native species, including wide-ranging mammals. They accommodate natural disturbance regimes—that is, they can be expected to enable the long-term survival of native species under expected frequencies and intensities of fire, drought, temperature extremes, outbreaks of pests and diseases, and other stochastic events. Human use and occupancy occur at levels that do not cause ecological degradation. Management has a long time horizon, on the order of decades to centuries, that facilitates natural evolution of ecosystems and species. All organisms benefit from the management process. Charismatic, commercial, and other special-status species are considered in the context of the total management program. People are considered an integral part of the ecosystem. Management reflects understanding of the interactions of natural and human systems at many spatial and temporal scales.

Ecosystem management reflects and fosters an ethic of sustainability, and requires continuing consultation and cooperation among landowners and other stakeholders. As the number of stakeholders increases, the process becomes more effective in facilitating the complex tradeoffs that enable use of ecosystems to meet human needs in ways that sustain natural ecosystem functions and components in a changing environment.

Ecosystem management requires the creative balancing of four general types of needs:

Material and energy needs refer to the use of ecosystems to produce materials, commodities, and energy required for human survival or that contribute to the material advancement of human societies. Timber production areas, croplands, subsistence use areas, water development projects, and mineral and energy development projects serve primarily these needs.

Social needs refer to the use of ecosystems to provide the context for the social interactions of individuals and communities. Human settlements, recreation areas, and cultural landscapes exemplify uses that serve primarily social needs.

Spiritual needs refer to uses that facilitate the aesthetic, meditative, symbolic or religious experience of individuals or cultural groups. Nature preserves, national parks, wilderness areas, religious sites, and areas of traditional cultural importance serve primarily these types of needs.

Informational needs refer to uses that provide the knowledge and skills that support the theory and practice of ecosystem management through research, education, training, and demonstration. Biosphere reserves, long-term ecological research sites, and experimental forests exemplify areas where developing, sharing, and applying information are especially important.

Diverse, highly focused, and well-established constituencies of public agencies and private sector organizations facilitate, promote, or implement use and management of resources to meet material and energy needs (e.g., forest products and energy development industries), social needs (e.g., sporting associations, community organizations), and spiritual needs (e.g., wilderness and nature conservation organizations). However, constituencies for use and management of ecosystems to meet informational needs remain embryonic. Government agencies and academic institutions have established hundreds of research sites, and have identified numerous areas for obtaining information on natural and managed ecosystems to address particular management issues and research questions. However, only a few government programs (e.g., U.S. Man and the Biosphere Program, National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research Areas) and professional organizations (e.g., Association of Ecological Research Areas, Ecological Society of America's Sustainable Biosphere Initiative) actively promote and facilitate broad, interdisciplinary scientific uses of ecosystems that contribute to ecosystem management.

Existing landscape patterns reflect the interactions of particular governmental agencies responsible for regulating and managing uses relating to the needs of particular constituencies. Although the types and patterns of uses currently being established in many regions are becoming less effective in sustaining economic productivity and ecosystem functions, natural resource managers have found it difficult to achieve a broad acceptance of goals and practices to facilitate beneficial changes. An underlying problem is the lack of a sufficiently broad public understanding and ownership of the information used to formulate new goals and management practices. Although cooperation in developing information for ecosystem management is increasing, public constituencies for these activities have only recently begun to emerge. Yet, these constituencies will be essential for significant progress in implementing ecosystem management. In the complex political environments of many jurisdictions and competing interests that comprise the constituencies for ecosystem management, good information, widely shared, broadly understood, and generally accepted will be the most important enabling factor in the ecosystem management process.

Scientists and managers have a mutual interest in identifying representative ecological areas where long-term cooperative programs will be organized and implemented to develop the theory and practice of ecosystem management. The four case-study regions examined in the following chapters exemplify "landscapes for learning" where efforts have been initiated to build constituencies for such programs. Remote sensing and geographic information systems are basic technological tools in these programs. They offer the means for obtaining and organizing a large volume of scientific data, and a way to encourage consideration of ecosystems and landscapes as information resources. The technologies are becoming increasingly important in assessing the status of ecosystems and biological diversity (Scott et al. 1993). They are facilitating understanding and modeling of the temporal and spatial relationships among natural forces and human activities in creating contemporary landscapes, and thus improving the informational basis for establishing goals and strategies for managing these interactions. They offer managers useful tools in resolving conflicts among competing interests by strengthening common understanding of ecosystem conditions and trends. By facilitating communication among the stakeholders in ecosystem management, they can help reveal whether conflicts are due to lack of information or to differences in valuation of natural resources, and can play a catalytic role in developing the new cooperative mechanisms that will be needed to implement ecosystem management.

Addressing issues of scale is one of the greatest challenges facing contemporary ecology (Wiens 1992). Through cooperative programs that support ecosystem management, remote sensing and GIS technologies can help ecologists develop and test hypotheses regarding the effects of scale on ecological relationships and processes. They can link understanding of ecological processes and mechanisms from site-specific and organismal studies with ecosystem models at many scales, and can apply this knowledge in discovering and assessing possibilities for adaptively managing ecosystems and biological diversity in response to regional and global change.

Biological diversity, sustainable ecological systems, and global change are likely to be the greatest management challenges in the next century. These interrelated issues are the priorities of contemporary ecosystem science (Lubchenco et al. 1991, Huntley et al. 1992) and the focus of domestic and international cooperation to improve the scientific basis for ecosystem management (Comanor and Gregg 1993, UNESCO 1993). By bringing together resource managers, ecologists, and specialists in remote sensing and GIS technologies from four large ecological regions of North America, the chapters that follow set a precedent for the broader exchange of experience that will be required to implement the goal of a sustainable biosphere.


Developing Information Essential to Policy, Planning, and Management Decision-Making: The Promise of GIS

Jerry F. Franklin

Remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) together are crucial tools for the challenges resource managers face now and into the twenty-first century. Remotely sensed data—such as aerial photographs and satellite imagery—have been available for many years, and the last decade has witnessed a rapid evolution in the kinds of sensors used, the analytic approaches, and the methodologies for interpreting data.

GIS goes a giant step beyond our previous tools for tracking spatial data. Drawing on both traditionally gathered and remotely sensed data, it allows us as resource managers to develop, analyze, and display spatially explicit information and gives us the ability, for the first time, to deal with larger spatial scales such as drainages (≤5000 acres) and regional landscapes (e.g., several million acres). The lessons of forestry over the last decade have taught us that we must expand our view, that we must step back to see how things relate at larger levels.

GIS may be the most important technology resource managers have acquired in recent memory. Following is an exploration of five arenas in which GIS should be invaluable—(1) inventorying and monitoring, (2) management planning, (3) policy setting, (4) research, and (5) consensual decision-making—and, finally, the question of who will be responsible for overseeing the universe GIS spawns.

Inventorying and Monitoring

Despite all our efforts at inventorying and talk about monitoring, we still have only a fuzzy idea of what quantities of resources we have, where they are located, and whether they are growing, shrinking, or holding steady.

Take, as a prime example, the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. In the late 1980s, we found ourselves trying to determine how much of this forest type we had and where. The Wilderness Society, spearheaded by Peter Morrison, used aerial photography and satellite imagery to help create the desired information base. Pacific Meridian Resources, contracting with the USDA Forest Service, developed a very large first-order approximation of old-growth forest acreage and layout on the national forests in which the northern spotted owl is resident.

Yet in 1991, when Congress charged the Scientific Panel on Late-Successional Forest Ecosystems (the "Gang of Four") with the task of identifying significant late-successional /old-growth forest on federal lands within the owl's range as the basis for establishing a reserve system, we found our information base to be sorely deficient despite all prior inventorying efforts (Johnson et al. 1991). To develop a best approximation, the Scientific Panel drew from a broad array of sources—in addition to the Forest Service, The Wilderness Society, the National Audubon Society, Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Remote Sensing Applications Laboratory at Oregon State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state wildlife agencies in Oregon, Washington, and California. Because the databases alone were inadequate, we brought in agency experts from the various forests and districts to assist with mapping and interpretation. The Scientific Panel's experience, then, provides an important cautionary note: despite its merits, remote sensing does have its limitations (see Chapter 4). The subsequent exercise carried out by the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team for President Clinton (Thomas et al. 1993) demonstrated an improved GIS capability, however, when the full resources of the federal government are focused on this activity.

Of inventorying and monitoring, the latter is probably the major new thrust for resource managers. Without pointing fingers, we must all acknowledge we have done an abominable job of monitoring the condition of our resources, despite repeated promises by chiefs of the Forest Service, heads of the National Park Service, and others to do so. Talk has not metamorphosed into action—and that is going to have to change.

Monitoring is a critical issue for two reasons. First, public agencies are entering into many legal contracts or semilegal social contracts through court-ordered agreements, environmental impact decisions, plans, and so on, that depend on monitoring specific management practices. If agencies agree to monitor as part of a plan or agreement and then fail to do so, they are probably going to be sued. Second, and more fundamental, because all management prescriptions are, at best, working hypotheses whose outcomes are uncertain, we must monitor to gain the feedback necessary to make course corrections. Monitoring is essential to adaptive management.

Scientists have never simply conceived possible management approaches, then tested and proved them prior to implementation. Approaches have emerged over time, through experimentation, experience, and accident. For example, managing Douglas fir forests in the Pacific Northwest through patch clearcutting was an unproven concept when Leo Isaac and others proposed it in 1945. Many aspects didn't work out as expected, including the reliance on natural regeneration; tree planting was needed to assure prompt development of a new forest. Impacts on nongame wildlife and fish were not even considered. Monitoring helped correct some deficiencies in the original concept (reforestation), and lack of adequate monitoring masked other failures of this experiment. We are just beginning to acknowledge how little proven scientific information we base our management on, to recognize that we are always—and have always been—operating with significant levels of uncertainty. We know we need to monitor to check the effectiveness of our actions, and we know that monitoring must be spatially explicit; average values will not suffice.

Management Planning

GIS promises to be a major tool for management planning within administrative units and among ownerships because of the importance of larger spatial scales. No longer can we deal with one forest patch at a time, a 20-or 40-acre parcel, even a several-hundred- acre timber sale, without putting it into a larger context. Management planning without that context yields unwanted and unexpected down sides, such as cumulative effects or habitat fragmentation. Resource managers must think about patch size, about whether to disperse or aggregate activities, about edge densities, about connectivity in the landscape—which is far more than corridors: it is how the entire landscape matrix is configured.


Excerpted from Remote Sensing and GIS in Ecosystem Management by V. Alaric Sample. Copyright © 1994 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

V. Alaric Sample is director of the Forestry Policy Center of American Forests.

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