Integrated modeling


LCCM_mdOne of the most influential factors in human-induced global change over the last two hundred years has been the transformation of land and resource use associated with urbanization and sprawling development (Pataki et al. 2006). Land cover change is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades as populations continue to expand. As part of this project, Dr. Alberti (University of Washington) and Jeff Hepinstall (University of Georgia) have developed a coupled human-natural land-cover change model to assess the impact of alternative development patterns in the Central Puget Sound Region that can support land use and infrastructure investment decisions. The model has successfully been applied to assess the impact of land cover change on bird diversity (Hepinstall et al 2008). As part of this project, the model is currently being extended to 2050 and further partitioned to fully represent the complex and heterogeneous land use/land cover patterns and behaviors emerging along the urbanization gradient.

Past projects

Modeling Land Cover Change In Central Puget Sound
Integration of LCCM and UrbanSim

LCCM Integration with DHSVM

Puget Sound Future Scenarios


3_sbsSnohomish Basin 2060 Scenarios

Investigators: Alberti, MRusso, M and Tenneson K.

Final report

The Snohomish Basin Scenarios (SBS) aim to support critical decisions for maintaining ecosystem functions in the Snohomish Basin in the long term despite irreducible uncertainty. The Project, led by the Urban Ecology Research Lab in partnership with a team of regional experts, aimed to develop and assess hypotheses about the future trajectories of ecosystem service provision in the basin by characterizing the uncertainty associated with alternative future baseline conditions. The project culminated in four scenarios presenting unique and surprising sets of future conditions. Together the four scenarios are intended to provide decision-makers with essential information for testing, monitoring, innovating and prioritizing policies in light of potential opportunities and challenges that future conditions may present. Project lessons are translated into six areas of support for making decisions under uncertainty. Scenario planning provides a systematic approach to 1) focus on system resilience rather than controlling change, 2) redefine the decision context and framework, 3) challenge our assumptions about future conditions, 4) highlight risks and opportunities that prompt creative solutions, 5) monitor warning signals of regime shifts, and 6) identify robust decisions under uncertainty.


Future Without Project

Researchers: Marina AlbertiJeff Hepinstall-Cymerman and Michal Russo

Puget Sound Future Scenarios Final Report

The Puget Sound nearshore, like other coastal areas around the world, is being degraded at an alarming rate. One of the main causes of coastal degradation is the concentration of people along the coast. Human activity has caused significant damage to the nearshore ecosystems, both through the direct destruction of nearshore habitat, and by transforming ecosystem functions such as sediment movement (armoring), infiltration (impervious surfaces) and nutrient regulation (sewer discharges). The implications of nearshore ecosystem degradation are great, not only to those aquatic species that reside in those waters, but for the overall ecosystem and human well-being. Salmon, a Pacific Northwest icon, is only one of nine regionally endangered or threatened species that inhabit the Puget Sound nearshore (Fresh, 2006). E. coli from human sewage and animal waste concentrates in shellfish and ends up in our food (Weiskel, 1996). The structures built along the shore to protect land properties and homes, over time, result in decreased drift sediment, reduced beach width (Griggs, 2005) and loss of habitat area (Johannessen, 2007). It is estimated that 73 percent of the original salt marshes of the Sound have been destroyed and 33 percent of its shoreline has been modified by development (Gelfenbaum, 2006).

In spite of the growing concerns for the state of nearshore ecosystems and the need for a science-based ecosystem management, there is a of lack agreement within the scientific and policy communities about whichstrategies to implement in order to restore nearshore ecosystem function (Linkov et al, 2006). There are five issues that arise when planners attempt to develop alternative restoration strategies for the Puget Sound nearshore and these issues help illustrate the difficulties involved in the planning process and thus the potential usage of scenario planning. First, the complexity of coupled human-natural systems (heterogeneity, non-linearity and emergent properties) make them highly unpredictable. Second, many of the processes underlying nearshore ecosystems are still poorly understood, further limiting the predictability of system response (Lynn, 1998). Third, restoration requires the integration of both social and natural sciences to address the interdependence between human and ecological systems across space and time (Rapport 1998). Fourth, restoration must incorporate an understanding of reflexive human decision-making and behavior into the evaluation of the strategies. And lastly, uncertainty increases the further out we look (Heijden, 1997). Scenario planning is a future assessment strategy that addresses these difficulties – it is specifically developed to integrate complexity and uncertainty into the decision making process. In this project we propose that Scenario Planning provides scientists with plausible future baseline conditions to adequately assess the implications of alternative restoration strategies.

Over the last two years the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership’s Future Without Workgroup and the Urban Ecology Research Laboratory have undertaken a Scenario Planning process. They have engaged more than 100 experts through a series of panel discussions and a workshop in order to develop final scenarios
for the region. The scenarios in this report describe six alternative futures for the Puget Sound, ranging from economic growth and social and ecological prosperity to economic downturn and ecological collapse when critical thresholds are surpassed and regional resources become heavily strained. The scenarios focus on alternative trajectories for climate change and human perceptions and behavior, and their consequent implications for this region’s economy, demography, public health, infrastructure, knowledge base, natural hazards, governance and development patterns. Integrating scientific expertise and creative imagination, the scenarios describe plausible divergent future conditions. In a next phase of this project scenarios will be used to establish links between expected future conditions and nearshore ecosystem function.