Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | October 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: October 2021

Ecosystem Management


Missouri’s forests are complex ecosystems that provide many benefits. They also face many threats — climate change, invasive species, and habitat loss, to name a few. These threats, combined with competing values and objectives, make managing forests an ever-increasing challenge.

Since 1991, the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP) has been studying ecosystem functions and threats with an eye to testing management practices that will sustain forests far into the future.

To help managers optimize limited resources and balance diverse conservation objectives, MDC Research Forester Brad Graham is helping a team of researchers develop a new integrated planning tool (IPT) using 30 years’ worth of MOFEP field data.

“The IPT combines simulated outputs from a forest landscape model known as LANDIS PRO with conservation- and planning-optimization models,” Graham said. “The combined power of the integrated models will allow management teams to predict outcomes with greater precision and confidence,” he said.

Currently in the pilot phase, the IPT project focuses on the Current River Hills Conservation Opportunity Area. Covering more than 1 million acres of mostly public land, this landscape allows the team to simulate management effects on such values as wildlife populations, recreational opportunities, forest products, natural climate solutions, and invasive species and diseases.

So far, the team has “calibrated the forest landscape model, which can now be used to predict how forests will respond to different management and climate scenarios,” Graham said.

“This is the first phase of a multi-phase project,” he said. During the next phase, the team will integrate the conservation and optimization models into the tool’s framework and will work with managers to test it in the pilot landscape.

MOFEP and IPT at a Glance

Integrated planning tool

  • Identify management units
  • Simulate management stategies and assess outcomes
  • Develop management plan
  • ID and evaluate indicators
  • Set baselines, thresholds, and targets
  • Develop monitoring program and plan

Learn more at


This Issue's Staff

Stephanie Thurber

Angie Daly Morfeld

Larry Archer

Cliff White

Bonnie Chasteen
Kristie Hilgedick
Joe Jerek

Shawn Carey
Marci Porter

Noppadol Paothong
David Stonner

Laura Scheuler