Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the ForSys model developed?

ForSys development was motivated by the widening array of resource management assessments and a lack of tools to translate them into project scale priorities and site specific treatments. Most of the planning process on US federal lands is currently carried out with ad hoc GIS operations that are difficult to translate into actual projects and treatment designs. ForSys can be used to explore many spatially optimized project designs and identify conflicting goals between restoration, risk reduction, and conservation management. In this way the system helps planners establish priorities and map investments to target specific high-risk landscapes, and understand decision tradeoffs under alternative scenarios.

How does it work?

ForSys solves the basic spatial problem where planners need to locate treatments to optimize one or more objectives subject to multiple spatial constraints and treatment thresholds. ForSys uses inputs on objectives, management actions, constraints, and treatment thresholds to organize landscapes into planning areas that are optimized based on the inputs. Exploring tradeoffs and conducting sensitivity analyses is automated with features that allow for iteration through ranges of the input parameters. The model was developed with an emphasis for wide application by non-technical users, and thus optimization is accomplished with a relatively simple greedy spatial heuristic instead of more complicated mathematical programming approaches used in the field of operations research.

At what scale can the model be applied?

The model has been applied in case studies at scales ranging from watersheds (5000 ha) to all forest lands in the continental US.

What information goes in the model?

Minimum data requirements are a shapefile of parcel polygons attributed with data describing existing conditions relative to some management objective (e.g., reduce fire severity), and the potential outcome from a treatment (cost, benefits, impacts), treatment priorities and effects, and potential conditions that will trigger treatment (slope, distance to road).

How does prioritizing with the ForSys model differ from using one of the many Forest Service assessments of forest conditions?

ForSys uses assessments of land conditions as inputs to simulate the implementation of projects and treatments. In other words, the system translates assessments (pixels) into project areas and treatment parcels within them.

Does the ForSys model change landscape conditions over time?

No, ForSys is used for short-range tactical planning problems where invariant landscape conditions can be assumed, i.e., fire and forest succession are not going to significantly affect the outcome of the model run compared to prescribed management, although the potential impacts on the predicted outcomes are considered.

Does ForSys model treatment effects?

ForSys outputs can include treatment effects but they must be included in the input data. Any and all treatment effects are calculated prior to a run.