MAJOR RESEARCH QUESTIONS OF THE CONSORTIUM

  • How can we measure trajectories of change in ecosystems across scales from sites to large basins or landscapes?
  • What is the current state of ecological resources within the region?
  • How do natural patterns and processes of landscapes or ecosystems interact with anthropogenic patterns and processes?

    Stream Photo
  • What types of interactions are consistent and what types are contradictory?
  • What are critical yardsticks for comparing and contrasting various alternative future scenarios (e.g., biological/ecological, economic, climate/hydrologic, demographic)?
  • What indicators of ecosystem processes or components are most useful, meaningful, and tractable for describing historical condition, current status, and alternative futures across multiple spatial scales in the Pacific Northwest?
  • What indicators of climatic/hydrologic/geomorphic processes or components are most useful, meaningful, and tractable for describing historic condition, current status, and alternative futures across multiple spatial scales in the Pacific Northwest?
  • What indicators of demographic and economic processes or components are most useful, meaningful, and tractable for describing historic condition, current status, and alternative futures across multiple spatial scales in the Pacific Northwest?
  • What environmental management options are available to alter future ecosystem conditions across a range of spatial scales?
  • How can natural processes and human programs be used to maintain or restore ecosystem processes and patterns?
  • What are fundamental limits on achievement of ecosystem management objectives?
  • How can human efforts be designed to enhance natural processes that restore ecosystems and recognize ecological benefits of future disturbances?

RESEARCH APPROACHES OF THE CONSORTIUM

The fundamental research components will integrate a series of assessments designed to create a rigorous context for decision making. We will apply quantitative tools and information systems to provide critical interpretation of the uncertainty associated with decisions about future alternatives. We will employ three major research approachesócharacterizing change, identifying and understanding critical processes, and evaluating outcomes.River Photo

Characterizing Status and Change

The research will assess trajectories of change from pre-settlement reconstructions through alternative future scenarios.

Research components will be guided by initial assessments which will influence future research and environmental management. Assessment approaches will:

  • Describe historical change
  • Describe current condition and function
  • Delimit bio-physical and socio-economic processes and functions that constrain possible future ecosystem trajectories
  • Characterize the level of rigor and the uncertainty and unknowns in the assessment

Identifying and Understanding Critical Processes

We will produce a set of conceptual, quantitative, and evaluative models to identify and analyze critical anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic processes related to ecosystems. This phase of the research will:

  • Identify critical ecological (biotic), environmental (physical and chemical) and socio-economic (individual, household, and institutional) influences on ecosystem structure and function
  • Select indicators in each process category that quantify the magnitude of response to these influences on ecosystems
  • Integrate quantitative tools, information systems, and qualitative understanding to describe system responses both within and across process categories

Evaluating Outcomes

We will evaluate and illustrate the social and ecological consequences of potential management actions for future landscape conditions. To the extent possible, we will describe sources and levels of uncertainty and define likely boundaries of ecosystem and socio-economic trajectories. This phase of the effort will require:

Creating alternative futures that:

  • illustrate the major strategic choices
  • are linked to population and socio-economic settings
  • explicitly identify the likelihood and advantage of relevant choices

Evaluating the consequences of alternative futures on critical anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic processes. Evaluation of future scenarios will characterize:

  • risks
  • reversibility of consequences of resource decisions
  • technical limitations of achieving future actions
  • scientific uncertainty
  • policy or legislative constraints
  • community actions to influence landscape conditions
  • social outcomes in terms of distributional effects
  • public response to alternative futures

Using scholarly articles, electronic media, technical workshops, and public forums to present the results of these evaluations.

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