Online Tools for Natural Resource Management Scenarios That Address Climate Change

Fig. 1. Map from Climate Change Tree Atlas showing projected distribution of Eastern white pine.

The tasks of developing and evaluating natural resource management plan options that address potential climate change impacts can be complex and varied. Each year, new tools become available to help land and resource managers, landowners, scientists, and other stakeholders create management plans and adaptation strategies that allow for future changes should unexpected outcomes arise. The following online resources are examples of these tools.

Climate Change Tree Atlas

Climate Change Bird Atlas 

  • Developed for the USDA Forest Service by Anantha Prasa, Dr. Louis Iverson, Dr. Stephen Matthews, and Matthew Peters
  • What They Provide: Maps and analyses of current and projected distributions of trees (Figure 1) and birds. The maps showing projected distributions are based on a set of climate projection models and suggest how species’ ranges can change given various climate scenarios. When compared with the maps showing current distributions of species, these maps suggest how changes in climate affect the distributions of different species. Model inputs, assumptions, and results are all available online.
  • Who They’re For: Resource managers and others interested in planning for potential shifts in ranges of various species.
  • How They Should Be Used: To analyze factors influencing potential changes in ecosystems in the eastern United States. The maps provide a large-scale look at how species’ habitats may change in the future.
  • Limitations: The maps cover only the eastern United States. The tool addresses only distribution; other factors, such as species’ migration rates, disturbance, or future biotic interactions with species in novel habitats, are not taken into account.

Comparative Risk Assessment Framework and Tools (CRAFT)

  • Developed for the USDA Forest Service by Dr. Danny C. Lee
  • What It Provides: Web-based sharing of content for resource management. The tool presents a structured system for planning and evaluating management options based on objectives and trade-offs. The system uses three approaches (ecological risk assessment, decision analysis, and decision protocol) to guide users through an evaluation of different strategies, alternatives, and outcomes. The website provides a GIS viewer, an encyclopedia of resources, and an online portal for planning projects. The organization of the planning process follows National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines but can be adjusted for different projects or audiences.
  • Who It’s For: Natural resource planning teams and associated stakeholders.
  • How It Should Be Used: To implement a structured method for developing and analyzing alternative management strategies. The system is used to help planners develop concise and well-thought-out objectives, alternatives, and evaluations. Also, it is designed to allow for online collaboration among various stakeholders and individuals.
  • Limitations: Databases, flow charts, and decision trees must be created and defined by the user. CRAFT does not currently offer an online storage area for files related to group projects. The tool’s decision analysis is based on the Bayesian Belief Network, so if an alternative decision model is used, CRAFT cannot account for it.

Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options (TACCIMO)

  • Developed by the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center
  • What It Provides: Web-based exploration and report generation of information describing climate change impacts, management options, and projected climate conditions. The website provides literature on and forest management plans related to climate change impacts and allows users to investigate direct impacts to ecosystems and various management options. Also, users can generate climate change projections for a specific region.
  • Who It’s For: Landowners, managers, and planners interested in climate change effects on ecosystems.
  • How It Should Be Used: To develop and analyze strategies for managing ecosystems under a changing climate. TACCIMO is designed to provide supplemental materials and support for management planning and should be used in conjunction with expert consultation and site-based plans and not as a substitute for either.
  • Limitations: The resource is limited to information for the southern and eastern United States (although more site-specific data and peer-reviewed management plans are expected to be available in the future). Much of the information provided by TACCIMO is general in nature and may not reflect the full scope of thought on a given topic or issue.

Conservation Biology Institute Climate Center, Powered by Data Basin

  • Developed by Dr. Dominique Bachelet
  • What It Provides: An online networking system to connect spatial data sets for a variety of analyses. Spatial data sets include libraries on climate change impacts, boreal forests, marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems, and protected areas. The website also allows collaboration among users and groups, who can share maps and data sets. The goal is to facilitate the tasks of creating spatial data for ecological purposes and sharing those data with others.
  • Who It’s For: Scientists, practitioners, managers, policy makers, and others integrating spatial data into their work. The site is designed for those with basic GIS and spatial analysis experience as well as more skilled analysts. Collaboration among users is highly encouraged.
  • How It Should Be Used: To find reliable spatial data and use multiple sources to analyze complex questions. Users in related fields can work together to address ecological questions and issues through the creation of maps and spatial analyses.
  • Limitations: Access to data sets requires registration with the site. Data sets are designed to support ArcGIS and related software, so the use of alternative GIS software packages may be limited.

Water Supply Stress Index—Carbon and Biodiversity (WaSSI-CB)

  • Developed for the USDA Forest Service by Dr. Peter Caldwell
  • What It Provides: A modeling system for the study of water supply and demand, carbon dynamics, and biodiversity under multiple stresses. Analyses generate information on water balances for current, future, or historical time frames, based on zip codes.
  • Who It’s For: Researchers and modelers.
  • How It Should Be Used: To provide land managers and policy makers with analyses of how alternative future conditions alter important ecosystem services. The information provided by WaSSI should be used for forecasting and predicting changes in water supply and demand. Data outputs are designed for those experienced with interpreting water balance data, as additional context or information is not provided.
  • Limitations: Interpretation of changes in water stress indices is left up to the user to determine. The tool provides changes in water stress indices only for specific zip codes and cannot be used for larger-scale analyses. Historical data may not take ecological demand into account for changes in water balance. Also, context for different outputs is not provided, leaving interpretation to the user.


Adapted for eXtension by Sabrina Kleinman, University of Arizona, from a presentation given by Mark Twery, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station at the National Workshop on Climate & Forests. Flagstaff, Arizona. May 17, 2011.