In a temperate climate, disturbance events maintain a patchwork diversity in the forest ecosystem, but with warmer temperatures, wildfires and disease outbreaks become more devastating. If a tree species becomes extinct, it is replaced with a new species that may be more suited for the hotter climate, allowing an impoverished ecosystem to adapt to catastrophic change.
Each time this simulation runs, a new landscape is generated with a unique mix of tree species each possessing different behaviour. Evolutionary Forest is coded with interrelated cellular automata processes to approximate vegitative growth, soil, water, disease and wildfire. As an artform, this generative simulation allows viewers to explore potential futures amidst climate change, and to consider principles of ecosystem resilience.
After witnessing dramatic changes in forest ecosystems that are part of my home, I am driven to create digital artworks that reflect the nuance and complexity of climate change.
Evolutionary Forest continually surprises me, often creating dramatic narratives of trees struggling to adapt to climate change. The landscape in this video starts with a balanced disturbance regime, then as the lake dries up, larger fires wipe out most of the vegetation and create a desertified landscape. However, one of the original tree species survives, and a new species is introduced that thrives in the hotter and drier climate. A resilient forest ultimately survives, although with less biodiversity and impoverished aesthetics.