The expansion and contraction of marginal cropland in the Great Plains often involves small forested strips of land that provide important ecological benefits. The effect of human disturbance on these forests is not well known. Because of their unique structure such forests are not well-represented by forest gap models. In this paper, the development, testing and application of a new model known as Seedscape are described. Seedscape is a modification of the JABOWA-II model, and it uses a spatially-explicit landscape to resolve small-scale features of highly fragmented forests in the eastern Great Plains. It was tested and evaluated with observations from two sites, one in Nebraska and a second in eastern Iowa. Seedscape realistically simulates succession at the Nebraska site, but is less successful at the Iowa site. Seedscape was also applied to the Nebraska site to simulate the effect that varying forest corridor widths, in response to the presumed expansion/contraction of adjacent agricultural land, has on succession properties. Results suggest that small differences in widths have negligible effects on forest composition, but large differences in widths may cause statistically-significant changes in the relative importance of some species. We assert that long-term ecological change in human dominated landscapes is not well understood, in part, because of inadequate modeling techniques. Seedscape provides a much-needed tool for assessing the ecological implications of land use change in forests of predominately agricultural landscapes.
Additional publication details
Simulating the impact of human land use change on forest composition in the Great Plains agroecosystems with the Seedscape model