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PUBLICATION NOTICE: Aligning Ecological Model Development with Restoration Project Planning

US Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Published Aug. 27, 2019

The US Army Engineer Research and Development Center has published the report/note described and linked below. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

Report Number:



Aligning Ecological Model Development with Restoration Project Planning 


S. Kyle McKay, Nate Richards, and Todd S. Swannack


Models contribute vitally to ecosystem conservation and restoration decision-making. Restoration project planning in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) may proceed rapidly from project conception to feasibility-level design through a series of sequential decisions, which iteratively articulate the federal interest, quantify the benefits and costs of competing management actions, and reduce uncertainty in project outcomes. In this process, numerical tools are applied to purposes as diverse as enhancing understanding of complex ecological processes, comparing alternative management actions, and building trust and buy-in among stakeholders. Owing to the relatively short planning horizon (typically three years) and high complexity of USACE projects (typically large-scale or watershed-scale actions), there is a perception that ecological models cannot be developed during project planning. This technical note addresses this misconception through three mechanisms. First, the ecological model development process is presented along with examples of modeling misconceptions observed in other agencies and management contexts. Second, common uses of ecological models are explicitly mapped to the USACE planning processes, timelines, and milestones. Third, an example of ecological model development and review is presented for an ongoing USACE watershed restoration study in Proctor Creek, Atlanta, Georgia. From these three lines of evidence, we conclude that ecological model development is not only possible in USACE studies, it is integral and complementary to the goals of the agency's planning process.

9 pgs / 871 mb


ERDC is a diverse research organization with approximately 2,000 employees operating more than $1 billion in world class facilities at seven laboratories. Its annual program exceeds $1 billion as it supports the Department of Defense and other agencies in military and civilian projects. Principal research areas include Soldier support, Engineered Resilient Systems, Environmental Quality and Installations, Geospatial Research and Engineering, Military Engineering, and Water Resources.  “Discover ▪ Develop ▪ Deliver”

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