10 Desired Future Conditions

To effectively manage habitat for a species, a group of species, or to contribute to biodiversity conservation, we need goals or targets toward which management will be directed. This may involve a condition that will occur on its own in the absence of active management, or it may require intervention to guide the development of the stand or landscape toward your goal. Describing the structure, composition, and scales of a condition that you think will meet the needs for species on your site is one of the first steps in developing a habitat management plan for a stand, forest, or landscape. Landres et al. (1999) described desired future conditions (DFCs) as expressions of ecosystem conditions preferred by stakeholders and managers. Kessler et al. (1992) also referred to an articulation of a DFC as a goal in ecosystem management. This may be a reference condition, or more appropriately it may be a set of reference conditions that currently achieve some desired objectives, or it may be a sequential set of future conditions that achieve different objectives for different species over time. Given inherent uncertainty in achieving goals in the face of stochastic disturbances, ecological pathways, and novel stresses on forest dynamics (e.g., climate change, spread of invasive species), monitoring to assess progress toward a DFC is probably a reasonable strategy for achieving habitat objectives. Adaptability to unexpected outcomes is also important. Joyce et al. (2009) described developing a set of practices that would build resistance and resilience into current ecosystems, while also managing for change in system function and adaptability to new system states. Despite the uncertainties of the future, having a goal or DFC helps to direct management actions while keeping options open for unexpected changes. Goals for habitat are typically set at large scales (regions) and achieved at small scales (stands). Foresters typically develop plans for managing stands that contribute to some overall forest-level goal.

However the DFCs are described, they must be implementable; that is, the site must be capable of producing those conditions. All of the factors described in the previous chapters come into play when considering if current conditions, past actions, and likely future changes will result in achievement of a set of DFCs. Models of forest development under alternative management strategies can help guide development of management plans for a stand or landscape.

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Desired Future Conditions from Wildlife Habitat Management


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