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A Toolkit Modeling Approach for Sustainable Forest Management Planning: Achieving Balance between Science and Local Needs

Brian R. Sturtevant, Northern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service
Andrew Fall, Gowlland Technologies Ltd
Daniel D. Kneeshaw, Centre d’Étude de la Forêt (CEF), University of Quebec at Montreal
Neal P. P. Simon, Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Natural Resources
Michael J. Papaik, Centre d’Étude de la Forêt (CEF), University of Quebec at Montreal
Kati Berninger, Centre d’Étude de la Forêt (CEF), University of Quebec at Montreal
Frédérik Doyon, Institut Québécois d'Aménagement de la Forêt Feuillue
Don G. Morgan, British Columbia Ministry of Forests
Christian Messier, Centre d’Étude de la Forêt (CEF), University of Quebec at Montreal


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To assist forest managers in balancing an increasing diversity of resource objectives, we developed a toolkit modeling approach for sustainable forest management (SFM). The approach inserts a meta-modeling strategy into a collaborative modeling framework grounded in adaptive management philosophy that facilitates participation among stakeholders, decision makers, and local domain experts in the meta-model building process. The modeling team works iteratively with each of these groups to define essential questions, identify data resources, and then determine whether available tools can be applied or adapted, or whether new tools can be rapidly created to fit the need. The desired goal of the process is a linked series of domain-specific models (tools) that balances generalized “top-down” models (i.e., scientific models developed without input from the local system) with case-specific customized “bottom-up” models that are driven primarily by local needs. Information flow between models is organized according to vertical (i.e., between scale) and horizontal (i.e., within scale) dimensions. We illustrate our approach within a 2.1 million hectare forest planning district in central Labrador, a forested landscape where social and ecological values receive a higher priority than economic values. However, the focus of this paper is on the process of how SFM modeling tools and concepts can be rapidly assembled and applied in new locations, balancing efficient transfer of science with adaptation to local needs. We use the Labrador case study to illustrate strengths and challenges uniquely associated with a meta-modeling approach to integrated modeling as it fits within the broader collaborative modeling framework. Principle advantages of the approach include the scientific rigor introduced by peer-reviewed models, combined with the adaptability of meta-modeling. A key challenge is the limited transparency of scientific models to different participatory groups. This challenge can be overcome by frequent and substantive two-way communication among different groups at appropriate times in the model-building process, combined with strong leadership that includes strategic choices when assembling the modeling team. The toolkit approach holds promise for extending beyond case studies, without compromising the bottom-up flow of needs and information, to inform SFM planning using the best available science.

Key words

decision support; ecosystem management; forest sustainability; interdisciplinary modeling; land planning; participatory modeling; scaling

Copyright © 2007 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087