Traditionally a great deal of natural resources management has involved field-based surveys and plans, explains Hong S. He, Associate Professor of Forestry in the School of Natural Resources at MU. But recently these scientists and managers have come to realize that they also need to pay attention to the larger spatial configuration of natural resources. This realization has a lot of implications for wildlife conservation and biodiversity: “You can’t really consider one spot without considering the things around it,” he explains. Wildlife species require, for instance, multiple habitats, and watershed problems have shown that “if we pollute one area, it can spread over the landscape.” As an area of research, landscape ecology refers to the study of response to various natural and social factors over large spatial and temporal domains.
Computer modeling is an important tool used by landscape ecologists when they need to answer large-scale questions and consider several management scenarios such as suppressing fire or using prescribed fires, as well as the future impact of climate warming on certain species of trees. LANDIS shows the predicted results of various management policies 50-100 years from now. “Using some active management alternatives, hopefully we’ll end up with different, more desirable ecosystems,” says He.