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 Abstract

  Alternative Futures Analysis of Farmington Bay Wetlands in the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem (EPA/600/R-10/032) March 2010
Cover photo of the Farmington Bay Wetlands in the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem

This research project was conducted to develop a way of forecasting and quantifying the cumulative effect of management practices on the future management of wetland ecosystem services. The study is focused on wetland support for biodiversity, and specifically examined management risks to the avian habitat. Retention, recovery, and removal of excess nutrients by the wetland resource were also analyzed. No specific analysis was conducted to determine the effects of nutrient loads on the ecological condition of receiving wetlands. It was beyond the scope of the project. Future efforts to determine the effects of nutrient loads on the ecological condition of receiving wetlands will likely involve the systematic monitoring and assessment of wetlands in the project area over time. Information about the development and deployment of a wetland-monitoring program for the Great Salt Lake can be found on the Utah Department of Environmental Quality website.

The study’s design is structured around use of the Alternative Futures Approach (AFA) developed by Carl Steinitz (1990). The AFA has been applied to a variety of temporal landscape change assessments throughout the United States (Steinitz, et al., 2002). Toth (2002) applied a similar approach in the Wasatch Front region of Utah. AFA is a planning framework developed to help communities consider their options for managing land and water use. This type of planning helps communities articulate and understand the relationships between and consequences of different decision or management scenarios.

An AFA project generates a collection of alternative landscape design scenarios for a geographical area. The scenarios are illustrated on maps by showing future land use. Plan trend scenarios depict future land use based on assumed implementation of current day management practices into the future. Conservation-based scenarios depict future land use based on assumed implementation of a plausible set of innovative protection, restoration, and treatment practices. Once developed, AFA design scenarios are modeled and evaluated with respect to a set of ecological endpoints or outcomes. In this project, the ecological outcomes of water quality and avian habitat use are interpreted as forecasts of ecosystem services. The application of evaluation models, to a hypothetical set of landscape design scenarios, demonstrates how the models can be used in community planning projects within the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. The evaluation models are the major product of this research project.

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Joseph Schubauer-Berigan


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