RSim:  A Regional Simulation to Explore Impacts of Resource Use and Constraints

RSim Overview -- July 2006PDF file

RSim Final ReportPDF file

RSim Slideshow -- July 2006PDF file


Baskaran, L.M., V.H. Dale, R. A. Efroymson, and W. Birkhead. 2006. Habitat modeling within a regional context: An example using gopher tortoise. American Midland Naturalist 155:335-351.

Dale, V.H., D. Druckenbrod, L. Baskaran, C. Garten, L. Olsen, R. Efroymson, and R. Washington-Allen, M. Aldridge, M. Berry. 2005. Analyzing land-use change at different scales in Central Georgia. Pages 1-4 In Proceedings of the 4th Southern Forestry and Natural Resource GIS conference. Athens, Georgia, Dec 16-18, 2004.

Dale, V.H., D. Druckenbrod, L. Baskaran, M. Aldridge, M. Berry, C. Garten, L. Olsen, R. Efroymson, and R. Washington-Allen. 2005. Vehicle impacts on the environment at different spatial scales: Observations in west central Georgia, USA. Journal of Terramechanics 42:  383-402.

Dale, V.,H., M. Aldridge, T. Arthur, L. Baskaran, M. Berry, M. Chang, R. Efroymson, C. Garten, C. Stewart, and R. Washington-Allen. 2006. Bioregional planning in Central Georgia. Futures 38(4): 471-489.

Dale, V.H., F. Akhtar, M. Aldridge, L. Baskaran, M. Berry, M. Chang, R. Efroymson, C. Garten, E. Lingerfelt, C. Stewart. 2008. Modeling impacts of land-use on quality of air, water, noise, and habitats for a five county region in Georgia. Ecology and Society.  13(1) [online]. URL:

Efroymson, R. A., V. H. Dale, L. M. Baskaran, M. Chang, M. Aldridge, and M. Berry.  2005.  Planning transboundary ecological risk assessments at military installationsHum. Ecol. Risk Assess. 11:1193-1215.

Principal Investigator
Virginia H. Dale, Environmental Sciences Division,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

Other participants
Tom Ashwood, Latha Baskaran, Rebecca Efroymson, Chuck Garten, and Lisa Olsen
Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

Michael W. Berry, Matthew Aldridge, and Murray Browne
Department of Computer Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

Michael Chang and Farhan Akhtar
School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Catherine Stewart
U.S. Army for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

Eric J. Lingerfelt
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN


The United States military is proactive in addressing resource management issues. In response to these issues, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have collaborated to develop the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP).

An important SERDP sponsored workshop on Management-Scale Ecosystem Research identified the significant need for focusing on the health of an entire ecosystem. A way to address this concern is via ecosystem management, which can be defined as “a collaborative process that strives to reconcile the promotion of economic opportunities and livable communities with the conservation of ecological integrity and biodiversity.” There is a critical need for applying ecosystem management approaches to military lands and regions that contain them because of the unique resources on these lands and the fact that conservation issues may jeopardize military missions if not appropriately managed. The Regional Simulator Model (RSim) addresses this critical need by enabling researchers and planners to project outcomes through application of ecosystem management approaches to military lands and surrounding regions by computer modeling.

MapQuest map of Fort Benning AreaRSim was developed and applied to the region around Fort Benning, Georgia because of the large amount of data available for that military installation and surrounding region and the cooperation offered by the base in developing and testing the model. This model was designed so that it is broadly applicable to other sites with environmental management concerns.

This project was tightly coordinated with the staff at Fort Benning and The Nature Conservancy [who are developing the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP)] for Fort Benning.


RSim was designed to integrate environmental effects of on-base training and testing and off-base development. Effects considered include air and water quality, noise, and habitats for endangered and game species. A risk assessment approach was used to determine impacts of single and integrated risks. The plan was to make the simulation environment available via web interface. The model is being used in a gaming mode so that users can explore repercussions of military and land-use decisions.

The model is not only a way to integrate existing information (expressed in the form of data and models) and produce environmental planning maps, but it is also a method which promotes collaborative planning. Using the model requires stakeholders to investigate and learn about possible constraints on actions, implications of space and time on environmental decision-making and potential impacts resulting from that decision-making.

Summary of Process/Technology

The spatially-explicit simulation model was developed for the Fort Benning region, but was structured so that the basic framework can be applied to other installations and their regions. For purposes of this project, the Fort Benning region was defined based on socio-economic factors, the prime drivers of environmental changes in the region. Most impacts focus on Fort Benning or decisions made in its immediate vicinity. The spatially-explicit simulation tool was deployed in a gaming mode so that users can project ramifications of decisions about external land-use change, resource use, and future development policy on the sustainability of military lands and missions (examples).

A formal analysis was conducted to allow users to determine the most appropriate strategy to match their goals. As users simulate conditions from various perspectives, they can determine how making decisions based on different goals affects the environment and mission viability. Potential users of the system include the Alabama and Georgia Departments of Transportation which design and implement new road systems; home owners concerned about commuting, drinking safe water and breathing clean air; the installation commander who must actively train military personnel and test equipment and devices; and other decision makers (e.g., timber company mangers, developers, etc.). The simulation tool is of general applicability to land owners and managers but is of special interest to military planners at DoD installations because of its implications on their training methods and land uses (Urban Growth SubModel Example).


The research effort was designed to contribute to workable management and monitoring plans. RSim is designed so that it can be incorporated into the existing systems and thus be readily available throughout DoD. In addition, the effort developed new ideas on how to deal with:

  • Scales: We developed an approach that integrates processes that operate on very different temporal and spatial scales such as is described for the air quality model.
  • Feedbacks: Incorporating feedbacks between different aspects of the environment that operate at different scales was one of the biggest challenges of interdisciplinary research.
  • Optimization: Environmental research has been constrained by efforts to meet single criterion. Our approach allows consideration of several criteria at the same time dealing with air, water, noise and species. Acceptable land uses are those that maintain standards within all these categories, and we are devising a procedure for verifying that standards are maintained.
  • Advances Required within each Module: We made improvements in the “state-of-the-art” technologies used in assessing land-use changes on water quality, noise, air quality, and species and their habitats (including humans and wildlife).
  • Regional Perspective: Historically, environmental concerns have focused on impacts within the installation due to onsite activities. RSim examines impacts of the region on the Fort Benning installation, of the installation on the region, and potential feedbacks.

Transition Plan

The project developed a web-based integrated model that can become a part of the ongoing planning effort for the region. Therefore, in the research process we work closely with Fort Benning personnel who are involved in planning and management. The best test of success in this project is to have land managers and planners use the model so that feedback can be obtained (in an adaptive management sense) and incorporated into the model. We worked very closely with the Fort Benning staff and The Nature Conservancy in this effort. The research effort is designed to contribute to workable management and monitoring plans.

Web-Based Integrated Model

System Requirements -- RSim requires the Java Runtime Environment 1.5.0 or higher and at least 1GB of RAM memory. Java installation instructions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux/Unix are provided here.

Three RSim launch files are provided, for various memory configurations: Small (only 1GB of RAM), Medium (at least 1.5GB of RAM), and Large (at least 2GB of RAM). Using a lanch file larger than the computer's available memory may cause RSim to run extremely slowly, or to stop responding altogether. Running RSim for many timesteps or all of the available models will require either the Medium or Large configuration. In particular, note that the "Apply minimum patch size for suitable habitat" option on Step 7 of 10 in RSim requires at least a Medium configuration.

Click on the desired file to run RSim

Windows Small (1Gb) Medium (1.5Gb) Large (2Gb)
Mac/Linux Small (1Gb) Medium (1.5Gb) Large (2Gb)

To request a CD of RSim contact Virginia Dale.


The project is funded by a contract from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by the University of Tennessee-Battelle LLC. for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.

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Updated: December 2006