Modeling the Structure of Forests

The Forest Structure project is creating a model that, by encompassing a broad scale that runs from individual trees up to entire forests, will allow researchers to better understand the impact of climate change, major disturbances, and succession on forests.



The goal of the Forest Structure project is to model forests from the level of individual trees up to entire wooded landscapes to better understand how the structure of forests could change under the pressures of climate change, disturbances from events such as fires and logging, and the succession of trees types.

Forest structure, which includes the density, distribution, and diversity of plant types, is controlled by acclimation, interaction, competition, and heterogeneity. These organizing principles can be modeled based on ecological theory and advanced aggregation methods developed at IIASA, but have yet to be utilized in large-scale predictive modeling. The project’s aim is to combine these state-of- the-art approaches in a new model that can evaluate three key research questions: 

  • What will be the impact of climate change on a forest’s structure, particularly woodland biodiversity and productivity? 
  • How does climate change affect the sensitivity of a forest to disturbances such as fires, and does it alter the succession process?
  • What are the best harvesting strategies for maximizing productivity and minimizing impacts on biodiversity? 

Ultimately, the new ecologically-based model will be linked to existing large scale forestry and land use frameworks to allow analyses to be more responsive to natural and anthropogenic disturbances of ecosystems.

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Last edited: 17 August 2012


Oskar Franklin

Research Scholar

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 251

Elena Rovenskaya

Program Director

Advanced Systems Analysis

Acting Program Director

Evolution and Ecology

T +43(0) 2236 807 608


2011 - 2014

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313