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Four Scenarios for the Future of the Massachusetts Landscape

In 2011, with the input of many groups and individuals from across the state, Harvard Forest launched a new project to evaluate potential futures for the Massachusetts’ landscape, and for forests in particular. The purpose of the project was to compare a set of contrasting scenarios to help inform and motivate conservation and land-use decisions. The scenarios were created by a group of eight natural resource professionals from conservation and forestry organizations, academia, and state government. The group gathered for six meetings over the two-year-study period to articulate four different trajectories for how land-use could change in the state over the next 50 years. While the scenarios do not attempt to predict the future – experience has demonstrated the futility of that – they do enable us to see and evaluate some of the many consequences of different approaches to using and caring for the land.

The four landscape scenarios developed and analyzed using LANDIS-II and other models are: Recent Trends, Opportunistic Growth, Regional Self-Reliance, and Forests as Infrastructure. The scenarios reflect different amounts and intensities of land development, timber harvesting, farmland expansion, and forest conservation. All scenarios also include the assumption that average temperature and precipitation will increase with climate change. 


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