Models and Applications

* Model is certified.


National Ecosystem Planning Center of Expertise (ECO-PCX)



ecorest: Conducts Analyses Informing Ecosystem Restoration Decisions

Purpose/Objectives: Three sets of data and functions for informing ecosystem restoration decisions, particularly in the context of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. First, model parameters are compiled as a data set and associated metadata for over 500 habitat suitability models developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS 1980). Second, functions for conducting habitat suitability analyses both for the models described above as well as generic user-specified model parameterizations. Third, a suite of decision support tools for conducting cost-effectiveness and incremental cost analyses (Robinson et al. 1995).

Platform/Program: R-package (web application in development).

Applications/Considerations: Over 500 suitability models are preloaded, but users may also specify a model in a different format.

  • Type: Index
  • Certification: Pending. National.
  • Users: USACE planners and engineers, consultants, other habitat applications.
  • Domain: All ecosystems.
  • POC: Kyle McKay, kyle.mckay@usace.army.mil
  • POC: Darixa Hernandez-Abrams

  • https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/ecorest/index.html (external link)
  • McKay S.K. and Hernández-Abrams D.D. 2020. ecorest: An R Package for conducting analyses to inform restoration decision making. R Package and Reference Manual.

eRAMS Flow Analysis

Purpose/Objectives: Web application for analyzing USGS streamflow gage data in real-time. Models automate standard hydrologic analyses from Bulletin 17B, provide novel visualization methods for displaying streamflow data, and provide a mechanism for computing environmental flow metrics.

Platform/Program: Web-based

Applications/Considerations: River restoration, environmental flow, gage analysis, river engineering, etc.

* General Salmonid Habitat Model

Purpose/Objectives: The model was developed to assist USACE planners in assessing differences among ecosystem restoration and/or mitigation alternatives for projects that would benefit or impact systems that support salmonid species. The model contains ecosystem level parameters that represent critical drivers, functions and strucutures for successful reproduction adn growth of salmonid species. The model was not developed for a single specific species or life stage, instead capures changes to area of concern at the ecosystem level.

Applications/Considerations: Model is scalable, can be applied at the reach scale on a tributary or mainstem, at the esturary or entire watershed. Model was developed with the Habitat Evaluation Procedure such that parameter outputs range 0-1 and overall model outputs also range 0-1. Used to assess baseline conditions of different landscape scales and differeniate between future alternative plans.

Geospatial Suitability Indices Toolbox (GSI toolbox)

Purpose/Objectives: Development of a set of computational tools for assessing ecological outcomes with index models within a geographic information system (GIS). The Geospatial Suitability Index (GSI) toolbox uses thematic and/or con-tinuous raster datasets to create and integrate multiple ecosystem parameter indices (i.e., habitat suitability indices) into a single raster layer representing environmental habitat suitability for a system of interest. The toolbox provides a streamlined approach to working with regional geospatial datasets in an easy to use index-based modeling framework that can incorporate regional value ranges from multiple parameters.

Platform/Program: ArcGIS Desktop and Python programming language.

Applications/Considerations: This toolkit is intended primarily for USACE ecosystem restoration planning; however, index models are also often applied for impact assessment, compensatory mitigation, and wetland regulatory issues. A multi-criteria index model of an ecosystem defining the quality of suitable habitat. Habitat suitability is defined as an index score from 0-1, where 0 is less suitable habitat and 1 is most suitable. The assignment of scores is based on individual parameter values and suitability index tables developed from peer-reviewed literature, expert opinion, or existing USACE certified models.

  • Type: Habitat Suitability Index Model
  • Certification: Currently under review for model certification.
  • Users: USACE, Public. The primary audience for these tools is USACE planners, biologists, and engineers involved in ecosystem restoration projects, who already have familiarity with ArcGIS software, GIS analyses, and habitat suitability models.
  • Domain: National application, however, intented for regional areas.
  • POC: Christina Saltus, Christina.L.Saltus@usace.army.mil

  • Geospatial Suitability Indices Toolbox (GSI Toolbox): User’s Guide: Currently under ELEMRS review as of April 15, 2021
  • Geospatial Suitability Indices Toolbox (GSI Toolbox), Version 1, September 2020: Currently under review for model certification as of April 15, 2021

HEC Water Quality

ERDC-EL partnered with HEC to build new environmental quality modeling capabilities in HEC-RAS, HEC-ResSim, and HEC-HMS. HEC and ERDC-EL have developed a water quality engine and are developing user interface components that will handle the water quality data (meteorology, bathymetry, water quality loadings), compute the hydrodynamics, and communicate with each HEC program and the ERDC-EL water quality modules. HEC-WAT plug-ins have been developed to support automated simulation of the 2D hydrodynamic water quality model, CE-QUAL-W2, and the water quality capabilities of HEC-RAS. The plug-ins allow modelers to run multiple separate models in sequence and optionally link the outputs of one model with the next model to create an integrated watershed water quality modeling system. When the new water quality capabilities in HEC-RAS, HEC-ResSim, and HEC-HMS have been completed, these can be leveraged within HEC-WAT.

HYDraulic ROughness CALculator (HYDROCAL)

Purpose/Objectives: Computes multiple estimates of hydraulic roughness for rivers. Compiles data in a weight-of-evidence format to inform engineers of selection of Manning's n.

Platform/Program: Excel

Applications/Considerations: Guides professional judgment on a crucial hydraulic model parameter.

  • Type: Hydraulic model
  • Certification: n/a. Engineering tool.
  • Users: USACE engineers, consultants, other river engineering applications
  • Domain: Rivers
  • POC: Kyle McKay, kyle.mckay@usace.army.mil

  • McKay S.K. and Fischenich J.C. 2011. Robust prediction of hydraulic roughness. ERDC/CHL CHETN-VII-11. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Monitoring Ecological Restoration with Imagery Tools (MERIT): Python-based decision support tools integrated into ArcGIS for satellite and UAS image processing, analysis and classification

Purpose/Objectives: In order to provide fast, accurate, and standardized satellite and UAS imagery processing, we have developed a suite of easy-to-use tools integrated into the graphical user interface of ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro, in addition to open-source solutions using NodeOpenDroneMap. The tool suite, dubbed Monitoring Ecological Restoration with Imagery Tools (MERIT), was built using python and leverages third party libraries and open-source software capabilities typically unavailable within ArcGIS. MERIT was designed to save researchers and technicians significant time in data processing and analysis by enabling a user to go from image acquisition and pre-processing to a final output for decision-making. Although the MERIT was designed to be wetland-specific in application, many tools have regional or global relevancy and can be implemented for a variety of environmental monitoring initiatives.

Applications/Considerations: Monitoring the impacts of ecosystem restoration strategies requires both short-term and long-term land surface monitoring. The combined use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and satellite imagery together enable effective landscape and natural resource management. However, processing, analyzing, and creating derivative imagery products can be time consuming, manually intensive, and cost prohibitive. This tool is integrated into existing ArcGIS Pro (Version 2.5 or higher), ArcMap (Version 10.6 or higher) software. Installation details and documentation will be made available in a forthcoming ERDC Technical Report.

* Proctor Creek Ecological Model (PCEM)

Purpose/Objectives: In partnership with the City of Atlanta and thirteen federal agencies, the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) planned an urban stream restoration in Proctor Creek, Atlanta, Georgia. A two-part numerical modeling toolkit, the Proctor Creek Ecological Model (PCEM), was developed to support planning of this ecosystem restoration project. PCEM is a numerical tool for computing environmental benefits of restoration actions, informing feasibility-level design, and facilitating restoration decisionmaking. PCEM contains four modules related to instream condition, riparian condition, hydrologic change, and watershed connectivity. These are combined into an overarching assessment of stream ecosystem integrity at the watershed-scale. While parameterized for Proctor Creek, PCEM provides an adaptable, generic framework for computing watershed-scale benefits of stream restoration actions.

Platform/Program: R

Applications/Considerations: Phased assessment aligning with different steps in the USACE planning process.

  • Type: Index
  • Certification: Yes. Single use.
  • Users: USACE planning, cities, other groups interested in stream assessment
  • Domain: Urban Atlanta, but easily adapted.
  • POC: Kyle McKay, kyle.mckay@usace.army.mil
  • McKay S.K., Pruitt B.A., Zettle B., Hallberg N., Hughes C., Annaert A., Ladart M., and McDonald J. 2018. Proctor Creek Ecological Model (PCEM): Phase 1-Site screening. ERDC/EL TR-18-11. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
  • McKay S.K., Pruitt B.A., Zettle B.A., Hallberg N., Moody V., Annaert A., Ladart M., Hayden M., and McDonald J. 2018. Proctor Creek Ecological Model (PCEM): Phase 2-Benefits analysis. ERDC/EL TR-18-11. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

* Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index for Louisville Streams (QHEILS)

Purpose/Objectives: Urban stream restoration typically involves multiple objectives addressing different aspects of ecosystem integrity such as habitat provision, geomorphic condition, watershed connectivity, water quality, and land use change, among others. Multiple stream assessment tools and models have been developed and applied to inform restoration prioritization, planning, and design. Here, we present the Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index for Louisville Streams (QHEILS, pronounced “quails”), which is designed as an interdisciplinary assessment method for urban streams in the Louisville, Kentucky metropolitan region. The model adapts a regional habitat assessment procedure called the Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index by incorporating additional processes related to geomorphic change and watershed connectivity. The model was developed in the context of the Beargrass Creek Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study, and QHEILS provides a rapid procedure for assessing multi-objective benefits associated with proposed restoration actions.

Platform/Program: Rmarkdown.

Applications/Considerations: Rapid assessment procedures drawing on field and desktop analyses. Model is presented in functional form and is easily adaptable.

  • Type: Index
  • Certification: Yes. Single use.
  • Users: USACE planning, cities, other groups interested in stream assessment
  • Domain: Urban streams in Louisville, but easily adapted.
  • POC: Kyle McKay, kyle.mckay@usace.army.mil

  • McKay S.K., Athanasakes G., Taylor S., Miller W., Wagoner E., and Mattingly L. In review. Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index for Louisville Streams (QHEILS). ERDC TN-EMRRP. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Rapid Hydraulic Analysis (RHA)

Purpose/Objectives: The models provide a simple hydraulic model for single cross-section analysis in both trapezoidal and irregular cross-sections.

Platform/Program: Web-based

Applications/Considerations: Simple screening analysis only.

* Simple Model for Urban Riparian Function (SMURF)

Purpose/Objectives: Society places high demand on urban waters, and aquatic ecosystem degradation is often an indirect by-product of these pressures. Urban stream and riparian restoration are challenging endeavors constrained by available lands, legacy effects of historic land use, multiple objectives, and finite resources. Stream assessment tools and models have been developed for rapid application and restoration prioritization in this context. While these models typically include riparian variables, they are often inherently focused on in-channel processes and outcomes. Here, we develop a Simple Model for Urban Riparian Function (SMURF), which is designed as a rapid assessment technique for highly urbanized environments. The SMURF was developed following a common modeling process of conceptualization, quantification, evaluation, application, and communication. Three major categories of outputs are addressed: (1) indirect effects of riparian zones on instream processes, (2) riparian areas as important providers of native faunal habitat, and (3) riparian zones as ecological corridors and sources of resilience in highly disturbed areas. These models use data collected through a combination of rapid field assessment protocols and desktop geospatial assessments, which are applied independently to both left and right banks. The SMURF was developed and is applied in the context of the Beargrass Creek ecosystem restoration study in Louisville, Kentucky; however, the modeling approach is readily adaptable to other urban riparian zones.

Platform/Program: Rmarkdown.

Applications/Considerations: Rapid assessment procedures drawing on field and desktop analyses. Model is presented in functional form and is easily adaptable.

  • Type: Index
  • Certification: Yes. Regional.
  • Users: USACE planning, cities, other groups interested in riparian assessment
  • POC: Dr. Kristofer Lasko (ERDC-GRL), Kristofer.D.Lasko@erdc.dren.mil
  • POC: Kyle McKay, kyle.mckay@usace.army.mil

  • McKay S.K., Goss M., Veraldi F., and Mattingly L. In review. Simple Model for Urban Riparian Function (SMURF), Version 1.0. ERDC TR-EMRRP. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

* Watershed-Scale Upstream Connectivity Toolkit (WUCT)

Purpose/Objectives: This model document describes a procedure for quantifying benefits associated with removal of organism movement barriers within a watershed (e.g., dam removal, culvert repair, fish ladder installation) or impacts of barrier addition (e.g., dam construction, weir installation). The model focuses on upstream movement of migratory organisms such as fish and is intended for application at the watershed-scale.The algorithm is based on four primary components: habitat quantity upstream of a dam, habitat quality upstream of a dam, the passability of a structure for a given organism, and the shape/topology of the watershed. This algorithm combines these data to estimate quality-weighted, accessible habitat at the watershed scale.

Platform/Program: R.

Applications/Considerations: User specifies how habitat quantity and quality are considered. Only considers upstream connectivity.

  • Type: Network and Index
  • Certification: Yes. National.
  • Users: USACE planning, cities, other groups interested in stream assessment
  • Domain: Global
  • POC: Kyle McKay, kyle.mckay@usace.army.mil

  • McKay S.K. 2018. Watershed-Scale Upstream Connectivity Toolkit (WUCT). Model Certification Report. Ecosystem Restoration Planning Center of Expertise (Eco-PCX). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • McKay S.K., Reif M., Conyngham J.N., and Kohtio D. 2017. Barrier prioritization in the tributaries of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. ERDC TN-EMRRP-SR-82. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi.