Environmental Management

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 850–861 | Cite as

Harnessing Ecosystem Models and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis for the Support of Forest Management

  • Bernhard Wolfslehner
  • Rupert Seidl


The decision-making environment in forest management (FM) has changed drastically during the last decades. Forest management planning is facing increasing complexity due to a widening portfolio of forest goods and services, a societal demand for a rational, transparent decision process and rising uncertainties concerning future environmental conditions (e.g., climate change). Methodological responses to these challenges include an intensified use of ecosystem models to provide an enriched, quantitative information base for FM planning. Furthermore, multi-criteria methods are increasingly used to amalgamate information, preferences, expert judgments and value expressions, in support of the participatory and communicative dimensions of modern forestry. Although the potential of combining these two approaches has been demonstrated in a number of studies, methodological aspects in interfacing forest ecosystem models (FEM) and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) are scarcely addressed explicitly. In this contribution we review the state of the art in FEM and MCDA in the context of FM planning and highlight some of the crucial issues when combining ecosystem and preference modeling. We discuss issues and requirements in selecting approaches suitable for supporting FM planning problems from the growing body of FEM and MCDA concepts. We furthermore identify two major challenges in a harmonized application of FEM-MCDA: (i) the design and implementation of an indicator-based analysis framework capturing ecological and social aspects and their interactions relevant for the decision process, and (ii) holistic information management that supports consistent use of different information sources, provides meta-information as well as information on uncertainties throughout the planning process.


Sustainable forest management Forest planning Forest ecosystem modeling Multi-criteria decision analysis Indicators 



B. Wolfslehner received funding from the European Community’s Sixth Framework Programme within the Integrated Project “EFORWOOD”, contract no. 518128. R. Seidl received funding from a Marie Curie Fellowship within the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (grant agreement 237085). He furthermore acknowledges funding of the Österreichische Bundesforste AG (project grant ‘ADAPT’) as well as the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (Grant LE.3.2.3/00009-IV/2/2006). We are grateful to M. J. Lexer and H. Vacik for their inspiration and long-time support of our work. We furthermore thank three anonymous reviewers for helping to improve an earlier version of the manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, Institute of SilvicultureBOKU University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences ViennaWienAustria
  2. 2.Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, College of ForestryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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