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Scientists & Staff

Eric Gustafson

Eric J. Gustafson

Research Landscape Ecologist
Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies: Theory and Application of Scaling Science in Forestry
5985 Highway K
Rhinelander, Wisconsin 54501-9128
Phone: 715-362-1152

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Current Research

1. Using the forest landscape dynamics model LANDIS-II to scale site-level experimental research knowledge to policy-relevant scales. 2. Predicting tree mortality as a function of drought. 3. Studying complex interactions of multiple ecological processes using a process-based landscape model (LANDIS-II). The process-based approach allows novel conditions (e.g., changing climate) to interact with disturbance and succession processes such that their combined effects are an emergent property of the simulations.

Research Interests

1. Development and application of LANDIS-II to study the effects of climate change and management alternatives on disturbance regimes, forest composition, and spatial pattern in temperate and boreal forests around the world. 2. Transfer of sophisticated modeling technology to forest managers and decision-makers.

Past Research

1. I developed a timber harvest simulation (HARVEST), which allows scientists to simulate timber management strategies in a spatially explicit manner through time. I am using HARVEST to study the cumulative effects of the various objectives of multiple landowners across an entire landscape. 2. I helped develop the LANDIS forest succession and disturbance model. I am working with other scientists to study the interactions among human and natural disturbances to determine the risk of wildfire within large landscapes.

Why This Research is Important

This is important to help managers account for complex spatial and ecological interactions as they plan management strategies for large landscapes. These decision-support models allow managers to predict how proposed management options are likely to play out over large areas and long time periods.


  • Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Lafayette, IN., Ph.D. Landscape Ecology, 1992
  • SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, M.S. Wildlife Ecology., 1983
  • Wheaton College (IL), B.S. Biology., 1978

Professional Experience

  • Project Leader and Research Ecologist USDA Forest Service, North Central & Northern Research Station
    1998 - 2012
  • Research Ecologist USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station
    1992 - 1997

Professional Organizations

  • Ecological Society of America (1983 - Present)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology (1990 - Present)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology (U.S. Chapter) (1990 - Present)
  • International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) (1996 - Present)

Awards & Recognition

  • Scientific, 2010
    Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award, College of Agriculture, Purdue University.
  • Scientific, 2008
    Distinguished Science Award, Northern Research Station. The award recognizes the creative efforts and contributions of a Forest Service Research and Development scientist through their sustained research productivity.
  • Scientific, 2007
    Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award, US Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology. The award is to recognize individuals whose thinking and writing have helped to shape the field of landscape ecology.
  • Scientific, 1999
    USDA Secretary’s Honor Award for Superior Service.
  • Scientific, 1997
    Presidential Award for Early Career Scientists and Engineers (plus $150,000 research grant)
  • Scientific, 1996
    Forest Service Chief’s Early Career Scientist Award
  • Academic, 1983
    Wilford A. Dence Memorial Award ($1000). SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY. To an outstanding graduate student demonstrating scholarly achievement and potential for a successful professional career.

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Mechanistic Landscape Modeling of Drought Effects (2014)
Drought is expected to become more prevalent and will probably be a major factor in increasing tree mortality. Landscape-scale forest models have very weak links between precipitation extremes and forest growth and mortality. Forest Service researchers developed a relatively mechanistic model to link water availability and tree species growth and tested it using data from a field precipitation manipulation experiment in a piñon-juniper ecosystem in New Mexico. The approach should better link temperature and precipitation to tree species competition for light and water in forest landscape models; thus, greatly improving their utility for climate change research.

Model Assesses the Influence of Drought Stress on Forest Relative to Other Factors (2012)
Drought stress data added to a forest landscape disturbance and succession model show that length of drought is more important than severity

Scientists Predict Survivability Factors for Northern Forests Given Elevated CO2 and Ozone Levels (2013)
The researchers scaled up a high-profile 11-year ecosystem experiment called Aspen-FACE to assess how elevated carbon dioxide and ozone levels might impact real forests at the landscape scale over the course of many future decades. They determined that there will be winners and losers among species and within species groups but that managers can have considerable control over the outcomes by managing disturbance effects on forests and landscape spatial patterns. The researchers also found that changes will be gradual and that few species are likely to disappear completely because of carbon dioxide and ozone effects alone.

Last updated on : 22-Feb-2017