Participatory landscape analysis to guide restoration of ponderosa pine ecosystems in the American Southwest

Sisk, T. D., Prather, J. W., Hampton, H. M., Aumack, E. N., Xu, Y., & Dickson, B. G. (2006).
Participatory landscape analysis to guide restoration of ponderosa pine ecosystems in the
American Southwest. Landscape and Urban Planning, 78, 300-310.

The methods of this paper are both practical and serve as a model to some of the complex issues that stand as a barrier to informative decision-making in ecological management. Trying to bridge the communication and gaps of influence from all ends of the planning process, particularly between science and policy, this study involves all stakeholders, building participation into their approach and look particularly at forest fire management of the southwest. Essentially management has altered the natural ecological regime of low intensity ground fires and in the long run created high-intensity crown fires within ponderosa pine forests. Such practices causes more destructive and uncontrollable fires, particularly in habitat rich and endangered species occurring areas. 

To better manage these forest fires and restore or mimic the natural fire regime, while simultaneously using more analytical tools and stakeholder knowledge, they organized a series of project development meetings. Workshops included federal and state agencies, local government, environmental NGO’s, academics and other individuals who typically perceive forest fires as dangerous and threatening to communities.

This study produces and includes lots of evocative GIS images, most importantly, one that compiles forest treatments ranging from high intensity thin and burning to low-intensity thin and burning and an intricate mosaic of treatments where necessary, and secondly, a map which prioritizes areas of management. 

As a result, stakeholders gave valuable input using spatial data and appropriate analytical tools for more intelligent approaches to environmental planning, management, and restoration. What is particularly significant about this study is that it produces a very valuable map, which breaks down a vast area of ponderosa pine forest and makes it not only manageable but also comprehendible to even those who aren’t scientists at a landscape scale. Definitely a good read for all fields. 

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