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Conservation Gateway » Conservation Practices » Fire & Landscapes » LANDFIRE » Veg Dynamics Models » BpS Models

Biophysical Settings Models & Descriptions

LANDFIRE developed state-and-transition models for all major Ecological Systems in the United States through an expert-based model development process.

Each LANDFIRE model represents a single ecosystem (called a Biophysical Setting, or BpS) and consists of two related parts: 1) a quantitative state-and-transition model, and 2) a description document published as a pdf file. The models were used in LANDFIRE to estimate reference conditions, which are used to help assess ecosystem health. In total, more than 700 experts were engaged to create 2,426 state-and-transition models (approximately 1,200 of which were unique) representing 783 mid-scale vegetation types in the U.S.


The models were developed using the public domain software platform Vegetation Dynamics Development Tool, (VDDT). VDDT is part of a lineage of state-and-transition software tools that includes the Path Landscape Model (Path) and most recently ST-Sim. These software tools are available for free online and supported by an online user community. Documentation for ST-Sim can be found in the Syncro-Sim Wiki.  

Beginning in late 2015, the LANDFIRE BpS review project engaged vegetation ecologists, fire managers and other land management practitioners in an effort to update and improve more than 1,000 BpS descriptions across the country. The review entailed reading and commenting on a 4-to-10 page MS-Word document.

The engagement by experts across the country is impressive.
  • 8700+ BpS description documents were downloaded from the dedicated review site by local and regional experts, representing more than 95% of all BpS mapped by LF across the Continental US, Alaska and Hawai'i.

  • Additionally, more than 75% of all BpS were downloaded five or more times, and some more than 50 different times.

BpS documents and models are expected to be released in summer of 2020.


These vegetation modeling tools may be helpful for those who

  • want or need to understand the disturbance ecology of an ecological system;

  • are curious regarding how early seral characteristics show on the landscape under natural disturbance regimes;

  • need base state-and-transition models to support scenario analysis;

  • want to develop Key Ecological Attributes for an Ecological System; and/or

  • need to compare an ecological system’s historic or reference conditions with current conditions.

Download model products from the LANDFIRE Program site.

Model Examples

Southern Appalachian Low-Elevation Pine Forest (Geographic range: Kentucky, northern Georgia, western N. Carolina, southeast Tennessee, Cumberlands of Alabama, parts of the Interior Low Plateau, and southwest Virginia).

Western North American Boreal Mesic Birch-Aspen Forest (Georgraphic range  is throughout boreal Alaska, on rolling hills and mountain sideslopes on west, east, and south aspects.)

Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Shrubland (Geographic range: central Washington, Pasco Basin and similarly low-lying areas of the Columbia Plateau in Washington. Likely occurs in northern Oregon along the Columbia and Snake rivers. It may occur around Pleistocene lakes in the Great Basin.)

Partial List of Tools, Resources, Application Projects


Modeling on the Grand Scale: LANDFIRE Lessons Learned

State-and-Transition Modeling in LANDFIRE


Modifying LANDFIRE Geospatial Data for Local Applications. The guide provides an easy to understand introduction to each of the LANDFIRE products, explains where and how to look for common problems with the data and offers guidance on how to complete common modification tasks. This guide is an excellent resource for anyone working with LANDFIRE data, but will be especially helpful to users who need to refine the data for local application.

Reviewing & Modifying LANDFIRE Vegetation Dynamics Models

Software and Tools

ST-Sim - In 2012, a major evolutionary advance in state-and-transition vegetation modeling was rolled-out by Apex Resource Management Solutions. ST-Sim has been implemented as a module within a broader, generic simulation modeling framework called SyncroSim. ST-Sim can be thought of as an upgrade to Path with additional spatial capabilities; it will optionally ingest, utilize, and output spatial information as desired and provided by the user. The user interface and functionality is similar to Path with additional spatial elements exposed to the user when desired. If a user is familiar with the Path interface and functionality, all that will be required is to learn the new spatial modeling options.

Vegetation Dynamics Development Tool (VDDT) Software tool that was used to develop the LANDFIRE vegetation models. VDDT has been superseded by the Path model and will not be supported in the future.

Biophysical Settings (BpS) Model Search Spreadsheet (download this document and save to your computer) is designed to help potential users of LANDFIRE Program vegetation data identify BpS models relevant to their areas of interest.


The LANDFIRE Web-Hosted Application Map (WHAM!) is an interactive resource that shows reports and applications where LANDFIRE is a key component of the work. 

The "Super User" application page on Conservation Gateway highlights interviews with professionals who have developed LANDFIRE products and/or are using them in their work. 

LANDFIRE Program home

LANDFIRE Program helpdesk 


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LANDFIRE YouTube channel 

Read about LANDFIRE on Wikipedia




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