You are here: NRS Home  / Research Programs / Forest Disturbance Processes / Fragmentation and land use change / The Working Forest Initiative

Forest Disturbance Processes

The Working Forest Initiative: Simulating the cumulative effects of the forest management strategies of multiple landowners on landscape pattern and biodiversity

[image:] WFI Study Site Map by Sue LietzResearch Issue

Sustainable forestry involves the extraction of forest products while maintaining ecosystem integrity to conserve biodiversity and to provide other non-commodity benefits to society.  Population viability is a function of the combined actions of multiple landowners, which create a dynamic mosaic of forest types, stand structures and age distributions.  Consequently, it is necessary to understand how the actions of individual land owners interact with the actions of others to determine the spatial pattern of the landscape mosaic, and therefore its ability to maintain biodiversity.  Although the cumulative effects of the actions of multiple owners have long been recognized as critically relevant to efforts to practice sustainable forestry at the landscape scale, few studies have addressed these effects because few analytical tools are available to do so.

Our Research

In partnership with the paper industry through Agenda 2020, the Northern Research Station established the Working Forest Initiative.  As part of the Initiative, we used the HARVEST timber harvest simulator to predict the cumulative effects of four owner groups (two paper companies, a state forest and non-industrial private owners) with different management objectives on landscape pattern in an upper Michigan landscape managed primarily for timber production.  We quantified trends in landscape pattern metrics that were linked to Montreal Process indicators of forest sustainability, and used a simple wildlife habitat model to project habitat trends.  

Research Results

Our results showed that most trends were considered favorable for forest sustainability, but that some were not. The proportion of all age classes and some forest types moved closer to presettlement conditions. The trend for the size of uneven-aged patches was essentially flat while the average size of patches of the oldest and youngest age classes increased and the size of patches of the remaining age classes decreased. Forest fragmentation generally declined, but edge density of age classes increased. Late seral forest habitat increased while early successional habitat declined. The owners use different management systems that cumulatively produce a diversity of habitats.

Gustafson , E. J.; Loehle, C.  2008.  How will the changing industrial forest landscape affect forest sustainability?  Journal of Forestry 106(7):380-387. 

Gustafson, E.J.  2007.  Relative influence of the components of timber harvest strategies on landscape pattern.  Forest Science 53:556-561. 

Gustafson, E. J.; Lytle, D.E.; Swaty, R.; Loehle, C. 2007.  Simulating the cumulative effects of multiple forest management strategies on landscape measures of forest sustainability.  Landscape Ecology 22:141-156. 

Gustafson , E. J.; Loehle, C.  2006.  Effects of parcelization and land divestiture on forest sustainability in industrial forest landscapes.  Forest Ecology and Management 236:305-314. 

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

Research Partners

  • Craig Loehle, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement
  • David E. Lytle, Northern Research Station (currently US Geological Survey)
  • Randy Swaty, The Nature Conservancy

Last Modified: March 11, 2020