MC1 (MAPSS-Century 1)

Website data products)


MC1 was created to assess the potential impacts of global climate change on ecosystem structure and function. It is a dynamic vegetation model, meaning that it gives the user information about the processes (e.g. nutrient cycling, fire) that will influence vegetation responses to climate change. In this way, it is different from models that give a static snapshot of vegetation patterns under future climates.


Outputs include maps, datasets, and publications created by model users. These maps cover a diverse array of information from fire potential to projected vegetation changes under different climate scenarios. Projected vegetation changes are made at the level of vegetation type (e.g. temperate conifer forest) as opposed to individual species. Maps and their associated datasets are available on the Conservation Biology Institute MC1 page (see 'outputs' below for more information). The model itself is also publicly available, with the latest code versions accessible for download.

Developed by

Jim Lenihan, Chris Daly, and Dominique Bachelet of Oregon State University, Colorado State University collaborators, and Ron Neilson, US Forest Service, with funding from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.


A downloadable model, online maps and their associated datasets, publications featuring model results.


Global to local

Scale (range)

Varied scales (landscape 800mx800m to global 50kmx50km). The smallest scale at which the model is being used is currently 50mx50m (2500 m2).

Training Requirement

3 (scale of 1-3): Learning to use the model itself is a major time investment; consider partnering with a qualified research scientist. Mapped results and publications require accurate interpretation, but no specialized training.


MC1 model results have been published on many occasions (see Products and Data). However the model itself is part of an open community of users, and is therefore continually undergoing revisions and improvements.

Potential Applications

Understanding climate change impacts on ecosystem structure and function, as well as fire occurrence and impacts, developing management responses.

Caveats, Restrictions

Uncertainties exist in all models, and caution is needed when using outputs as a basis for management decisions. For MC1, there are potential uncertainties in the algorithms that are used in the model, and in the climate data used for future climate scenarios. These uncertainties could affect the interpretation of model results. Users are currently limited to using results that have already been created by experienced modelers or learning to run the model themselves. The first users meeting took place in January 2010 in Corvallis, OR.

Overview & Applicability

Assessments of vegetation response to climate change are often made by models that predict vegetation composition under steady-state conditions.

In contrast, MC1 is a dynamic model that relies on transient computer simulations that are based on mathematical representations of biological and physical processes (e.g. transpiration rate) to simulate climate change impacts on a monthly basis. It is a process model that examines the specific ecosystem biogeochemical processes and changes in ecosystem structure that help determine the dynamics of vegetation change. The MC1 model can be used to answer a variety of questions, from looking at future changes in fire behavior or streamflow to examining shifts in vegetation type or density. Vegetation types are examined broadly, and not at the level of individual species.

An online interface using published results that would allow users to use the model to answer a few of their own individual questions is planned (ESRI-USFS collaborative project). Right now, users can access examples of maps that have already been created using the MC1 model (see Outputs below for more detail).

Vegetation map: A map of North American vegetation types generated using MC1Vegetation map: A map of North American vegetation types generated using MC1


MC1 arose from the modeling efforts of the Mapped Atmosphere-Plant-Soil System (MAPSS) team, led by Ron Neilson of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Researchers modified and linked several existing models (MAPSS, CENTURY) to create MC1. Jim Lenihan, Chris Daly and Dominique Bachelet (Oregon State University) were responsible for putting the original model code together. Jim Lenihan (currently with USFS) was later responsible for developing and including a dynamic fire module in MC1. MC1 is available for download, and an open community of users is encouraged to make modifications and share them with the group.

ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) plans to partner with the MAPSS team to create an online interface that would allow anyone to access some model results to answer their own questions about vegetation, hydrology, soils and climate change.

CBI (Conservation Biology Institute) is currently partnering with John Bolte (Oregon State University) to produce averages of available MC1 projections for the users' unit of choice (HUC5, state or county, soil polygon etc). Financial support for this project was provided by Forest Service ARRA funds. This effort uses Envision, a Windows environment free software.

Inputs and outputs

MC1 consists of three linked modules simulating biogeography, biogeochemistry, and fire disturbance.
For a complete list of MC1 variables, an Excel spreadsheet is available here.

Inputs include minimum and maximum monthly temperatures, monthly precipitation, monthly vapor pressure as well as soil characteristics including soil texture, soil depth, % rock fraction and bulk density.

Managers and the public can access a variety of maps that were created with MC1 results. Maps are available for many different variables, including changes in vegetation distribution in the U.S. and Canada under potential future climates, changes in streamflow, and much more. A large selection of these maps and datasets arehoused via the Conservation Biology Institute and Data Basin.

For the planned online ESRI tool, outputs will include maps plus tabulated data that can be downloaded to Excel.

Envision is a Windows environment free software that can be downloaded and will be available to analyze MC1 results for any area of interest by data users.

Restrictions and limitations

As with any model, there are uncertainties that need to be considered when using model outputs. With process models like MC1, mathematical relationships for physical and biological processes are specified by model developers and include a series of assumptions. Any uncertainty or inaccuracy in these relationships will affect the model results. In addition, the model relies on future climate data that have been produced by General Circulation Models (GCM's), and uncertainties in those climate data are reflected in MC1 outputs.

Currently, the average user is limited to using the specific maps or publications that have been created by experienced MC1 modelers. When the online ESRI interface and the Envision-MC1 framework are completed, users will be able to use some model results to answer questions of their own.

Vegetation projections using MC1 are limited to broad vegetation types, and do not examine changes in individual species.

Accessing the tool and additional information

The MC1 model itself, plus information on joining the MC1 user community, publications, maps and data products are all available here: