Spatial Context in the Selection of Management Alternatives

One of the factors guiding selection of management alternatives is spatial context. From an ecological perspective, not all management options are relevant for all habitat types, but planning or project areas commonly involve multiple habitats, hence multiple spatial contexts. From an ecosystem services perspective, the provision of services varies across space. Viewing management options in the context of a large ecosystem can provide clarifying information to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of management.

Figure 1 displays the spatial context that the U.S. Forest Service used to design landscape treatments for the Marsh project at Deschutes National Forest. Forest managers recognized that many acres within the planning area needed vegetation treatments to reduce the risk of stand-replacing fire and to help maintain the current flow of ecosystem services that would be negatively affected by such a catastrophic event. Figure 1 shows three areas, each with a unique management trade-off:

  • Treatments in much of the upland portion of the planning area (Area 1) could reduce the risk of wildfire or beetle outbreak but could negatively affect scenic views and a sense of remoteness. Managers decided to confine treatments to roadsides to minimize visual impact while creating useful firebreaks and defensible space for firefighters.
  • Treatments in the area east of FS Road 60 (Area 2), known as Matsutake Ridge,could compact the soil and damage high-quality habitat contributing to the cultural and provisioning service of Matsutake mushroom picking. Managers decided to focus treatments on areas surrounding that habitat to reduce the area’s overall fuel load and to protect the ridge from stand-replacing fire.
  • Treatments in the Late Successional Reserve (Area 3) could undermine the purpose of the reserve: to preserve old-growth forest ecosystems and the species that depend on them. Managers decided to avoid treatments in this area so as to not disturb those species or their habitat but instead to focus them on surrounding areas to reduce impacts in the event of a fire.
  • Figure 1. Applying spatial context to the Marsh project at Deschutes National Forest.
    insert table here