US Army Corps of Engineers
Engineer Research and Development Center Website

Habitat Evaluation and Assessment Tools

For Rapid Assessment of Complex Habitats

Published Nov. 19, 2012
HEAT evaluated and proposed ecosystem restoration alternatives for the Middle Rio Grande Bosque ecosystem in an efficient, effective, and transparent manner.

HEAT evaluated and proposed ecosystem restoration alternatives for the Middle Rio Grande Bosque ecosystem in an efficient, effective, and transparent manner.

Planners, resource managers, and biologists must consider environmental effects when developing projects and comparing alternative designs. Habitat Evaluation and Assessment Tools (HEAT) provides an intuitive, flexible set of tools to quantify benefits and impacts of changing habitat conditions on species, communities, and ecosystem functions.

Flexibility to Fit the Project

HEAT offers a simple, flexible solution to assess potential impacts and benefits of projects with a number of modifications. HEAT can incorporate a broad range of user-specified species, community, or functional models, as well as adapt to regional variations.

Less Time Required for Assessments

HEAT processes large amounts of data and simultaneously handles multiple HEP and HGM models of complex habitats, drastically reducing computation time required to produce habitat assessments. Each model can incorporate any number of habitats or wetland cover types, each cover type can include any number of variables, and the user may incorporate as many life requisites of functions into each model as demanded. The number of permutations, processing speed, and program performances are limited only by the data storage capacity of the user’s hardware.


  • Calculates outputs for “with-project” conditions using two modules within heat, the Expert Habitat Evaluation Procedures (EXHEP) and Expert Hydrogeomorphic Approach to Wetlands Assessment (EXHGM)
  • Performs Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEP) and HydroGeoMorphic Wetland Assessments (HGM)using an integrated Microsoft Access database to quantify “baseline” and “without-project” conditions
  • Stores basic project information iteratively with EXHEP
  • Documents and addresses issues surrounding model selection, modification, and creation

Success Stories

Middle Rio Grande Bosque Ecosystem Restoration Assessment

Middle Rio Grande has been subjected to significant anthropogenic pressures producing a highly degraded ecosystem that was poised on the brink of collapse. HEAT was used to formulate alternatives to address hydrological alternations, bosque ecosystem degradation, and the loss of key ecological services to the surrounding community, and to evaluate the effects of proposed ecosystem restoration alternatives on the watershed’s significant resources. By using Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) to combine disparate metrics into a single ecosystem output, the project determined how to use HEAT to non-monetarily quantify and trade off disparate ecosystem outputs in an efficient, effective, and transparent manner.

Future Development

  • Though the system accommodates manual entry of spatially explicit data, HEAT can be modified to operate from inside a Geographic Information System (GIS) interface.
  • Research on an architectural concept to incorporate sensitivity analysis and uncertainty analysis into existing HEAT capabilities has been initiated.

ERDC Points of Contact

Questions about HEAT?
Contact: Kelly A. Burkes-Copes
Phone: (601) 634-2290