Date of Award

Fall 12-17-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Language

English

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Anil Raj Kizha

Second Committee Member

Adam Daigneault

Third Committee Member

Aaron Weiskittel

Additional Committee Members

Han-Sup Han

Pascal Berrill

Abstract

Sustainably managed forests are crucial in balancing trade-off between various ecosystem functions and optimum product utilization. Improving the utilization of these renewable resources through diversified forest wood products faces various socio-economic, ecological, and cultural challenges. A major challenge faced by forest managers in the Northeastern United States is overstocked stands dominated by small-diameter trees (SDT). Major woody portion of the harvested residues is constituted by SDT and are typically of low value. Data from the national inventory indicates a high number of SDT in Northeastern forests such that the average size of all trees in the region is less than 15 cm. Further, stakeholders across the region have consistently called for the need for better markets and policies to incentivize the removal of SDT to enhance financial bottom lines and forest health. Hence, it is crucial to explore the existing situation of timber harvesting and management experienced by forestry professionals, understand the major variables that affect the cost and productivity of timber harvesting operations, and evaluate the actual cost of harvesting SDT compared to more valuable sawlogs.

The results from the online survey of woody biomass producers showed that SDT on an average, constituted more than one fourth of a stand’s harvest residue, although with high variability. The lack of markets, high cost of production, and policy incentives were the major constraints that affect the decision to harvest SDT. A global meta-analysis on the cost and productivity of timber harvesting showed that stand characteristics such as DBH and height of the stand and the machine rate had a significant effect on the cost and productivity of timber harvesting. A novel method called Exclusive Product Allocation for estimating the cost of solely harvesting SDT in a region where there is no market for comminuted wood products has been introduced. The actual cost of solely harvesting SDT was found to be four times the cost of harvesting sawlogs if the operation used the same equipment. The results from this study provide policymakers ways to reduce SDT harvesting constraints in the region and help forest managers in making efficient decision on costing operations.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 21, 2022

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