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ISSN: 0022-1201

Don C. Bragg

Current Issue

Volume 113, Number 4, July 2015
  • brief communication

    Chemical Use and Forest Certification: Productivity and Economic Implications


    Forest certification programs provide standards for multiple aspects of forest management, including the use of chemicals for mitigating competition and forest pests. The three most common programs in the United States-the American Tree Farm System, the Forest Stewardship Council, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative-all address chemical use. To evaluate relative impacts under different certification schemes, this research estimates productivity and economic implications of a scenario resembling management on nonindustrial private forestland. The research compares estimates from a mechanical-only treatment and two levels of chemical treatments. Results indicate that strict chemical use restrictions lead to lower levels of forest productivity and reduce potential financial returns. The mechanical scenario generated 6% less volume than the baseline scenario, and the more chemically intensive scenario generated 12% more volume than the baseline. The estimated net present value of the mechanical scenario (no chemical use) was 12% less than the baseline.


    This research addresses the practical implications associated with setting differing forest management expectations and standards specific to chemical use under different forest certification programs. In particular, certification programs have evolved and modified standards in ways that complicate decisions for forest owners and consulting foresters, while failing to specify or account for the potential impacts on forest productivity and economics, which affect incentives associated with forest management and those who rely on wood as a raw material. This analysis provides guidance and initial estimates for accounting how chemical use restrictions affect forest management. This research also reinforces the fact that certification programs that change forest management plans have consequences for individual forest owners. In the case of common chemical applications, restrictions impose direct costs as measured by tree growth and economic returns. Whereas this research does not speak to broader goals or objectives for potential and existing forest certification programs, it does highlight how clarifying the implications for those required to implement forest certification programs could reduce uncertainty and possibly strengthen our understanding of forest management strategies.

  • research articles
    biomass, carbon & bioenergy

    State Forestry Agency Perspectives on Carbon Management and Carbon Market Assistance to Family Forest Owners


    Family forest owners within the United States could potentially make significant contributions to sequestration efforts. However, we expect that landowners will need assistance if they are to successfully implement carbon management techniques and/or navigate through complex carbon market requirements. State forestry agencies were surveyed to gather their perspectives on carbon management and carbon market participation, assess current demand for assistance, and identify the types of state-sponsored programs available to landowners. Currently, only a few states have carbon management or carbon market assistance programs. A majority of states report that demand for carbon assistance is low, and few landowners are aware of carbon management or markets. Interestingly, and in contrast to previous estimates, demand and interest often appear unrelated to a state's physical forest sequestration capacity. Although many attributes of a carbon market present barriers, states appear to agree that certain landowner characteristics may increase participation interest.


    Carbon sequestration is one means of curbing excess carbon emissions. Forestry activities are considered to be one of the largest-volume and lowest-cost means of sequestering carbon and can concurrently provide additional benefits to society. Family forest owners may make significant contributions to overall forest carbon sequestration if they are willing and able to participate. Our findings suggest there may be little relationship between a state's physical capacity to sequester carbon from family forestlands, landowner interest in managing for carbon or producing carbon offsets, and the presence of state-sponsored programs to assist landowners in developing and implementing carbon offset projects. Basing projections of carbon reduction on the number of family forest acres alone may greatly overestimate the supply of carbon offsets from family forest owners. If forest sequestration is chosen as a carbon reduction strategy, further effort is needed to clearly identify landowners who are willing to participate in carbon management and/or carbon markets. Better identifying landowners could help agencies as they consider how (or whether) to invest in programs that provide forest carbon management and market assistance and information. This nationwide analysis offers guidance to states or entities that may be interested in developing or encouraging forest sequestration efforts.

    entomology & pathology

    Long-Term Changes in Fusiform Rust Incidence in the Southeastern United States


    Fusiform rust is the most devastating disease of slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) in the southeastern United States. Since the 1970s, the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program has assessed fusiform rust incidence on its network of ground plots in 13 states across the southeastern United States. Through analysis of the FIA data, we found that current fusiform rust incidence varied by state, forest type, and stand origin and that across all stand ages, rust incidence was approximately equal in planted and natural stands of loblolly pine but was higher for planted versus natural stands of slash pine. Decreases in rust incidence over the last 30-40 years were evident in young planted loblolly pine stands but not in young planted slash pine stands. Results for slash pine were surprising, and the reasons remain unclear but one reason may be planting stock origin, which was unknown and may be highly variable in rust resistance. These analyses of FIA rust incidence data also were used to update the original rust disease hazard maps published by Starkey et al. (1997).


    Slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) are the two most important commercial timber species in the southeastern United States, and millions of research dollars have been spent over the last 40 years in selecting, breeding, and out-planting rust-resistant slash and loblolly pine planting stock. One of the long-term objectives of these endeavors has been to minimize disease losses and thus increase pine timber harvests. Although fusiform rust incidence in planted loblolly pine stands is generally lower now than 30 years ago, no reduction was evident among planted slash pine stands. Because rust hazard remains moderate to high throughout much of the southeastern United States for both slash and loblolly pines, continued deployment of rust-resistant seedlings is recommended. Moreover, continuation of rust research and monitoring programs is imperative so that the gains in genetic resistance achieved to date are not lost.

    forest ecology

    Impacts of Wildfire Recency and Frequency on an Appalachian Oak Forest


    Cabwaylingo State Forest in southern West Virginia has experienced numerous anthropogenic wildfires over the past 36 years. In this case study, we assessed the relationship between fire frequency and recency and stand composition and structure, with emphasis on oak and its competitors. Frequent and recent fire was significantly correlated with reduced red maple overstory stem density and basal area. Overstory oak density did not significantly vary with either fire frequency or recency. Total overstory basal area was greatest in areas of either no fire or nonrecent fire. Oak sapling density was significantly greater with high frequency and recent fire. Red maple sapling densities were greatest when fires were infrequent and recent, and red maple seedlings were greatest in no fire and low-frequency nonrecent fire areas. Our results suggest that recurring fire can enhance the development of large oak advanced reproduction. However, frequent fires without a sufficient fire-free interval could prevent the recruitment of oaks into the overstory.


    The use of prescribed fire is increasing in oak-dominated forests, and in many areas multiple fires are considered necessary to meet restoration goals. Foresters and other land managers have questions on the number of fires needed, the timing of fires, and the effects of repeated burning on overstory and understory species composition and structure. A history of repeated wildfires on a state forest in West Virginia provided us a unique opportunity to investigate the impacts of multiple fires on oak-dominated forests. Our results show that frequent fires are correlated with significantly lower total basal area and greater abundance of oak saplings. These findings generally support the use of repeated prescribed fire as a management tool in oak forests; however, recency of fire, fire severity, and fire-free intervals must be considered. Other silvicultural practices such as herbicide and partial harvesting may also be needed in conjunction with repeated fires to further improve oak reproduction and restore oak-dominated forests.


    México-Addressing Challenges to Reforestation


    México's incredibly diverse forests are designated by federal regulations as "multipurpose" and managed for the benefit and economic welfare of the local communities. In addition to traditional wood products, the forests provide grazing lands, nonwood forest products, fuelwood, and ecosystem services. Unfortunately, growing populations and the structure of the community forest enterprises are placing increasing stress on forest resources. Furthermore, illegal harvesting, selective logging, routine burning for forage production, and unsuccessful reforestation efforts have depleted forest resources in many regions. Few local communities possess adequate forest nurseries to properly reforest degraded areas. The recent recommitment to nursery production and reforestation by Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR) should lead to improved stand establishment and growth, especially as forest communities understand the critical link between reforestation and sustained forest productivity. CONAFOR, a federal agency responsible for reforestation programs, has restructured nursery production, reduced the total number of nurseries, and contracted with newly established, private nurseries that now produce 38 million seedlings/year (about 20% of all seedlings produced). The number of community nurseries has shrunk with this greater reliance on private and military (SEDENA) nurseries, which tend to be larger and more sophisticated and use containerized seedlings rather than polybag systems. The objective of this article is to discuss factors leading to these changes and the challenges facing the reforestation program.


    Formerly, most forest nurseries were small and considered primarily as sources of employment for communities. Seedling quality often was a secondary consideration. Transitioning from polybag systems to modern containerized systems with subsequent improvements in seedling quality should result in greater seedling survival and growth. Further consolidation of nurseries and improvements in technology will probably lead to sustainable forest management predicated on successful reforestation efforts. Changes unlikely to occur are in the individual management of forest units by local community forest enterprises (CFEs). Therefore, it is critical that both national needs (e.g., watershed protection and carbon sequestration) and community needs (e.g., employment and nonwood forest products [NWFPs]) be integrated into a national forest management strategy that is implemented at the "ejido" (community) level. There are examples of successful CFEs (e.g., Ellis et al. 2014), but also examples that were initially successful and later faltered. Torres-Rojo et al. (2005) noted that a Continuing Forestry Education Program in the state of Guerrero greatly increased contributions to social programs as investment loans for processing equipment were paid. However, continued investments in forestry increased only slightly, hardly a model for sustainable forest management. Greater investment of proceeds in infrastructure and silviculture will enhance the long-term goals. A productive, free-to-grow forest can provide both commensurable values (timber, NWFPs, and forage) and ecosystem services (carbon sequestration and watershed protection) to the community and nation, provided that the "ejidatarios" (community members) are full partners in a move to more productive forests (Charnley 2005). The forest must be viewed as a renewable resource to be managed for current and future generations rather than as an extractive industry, whether the product is forage for livestock, fuelwood, legal and illegal timber harvesting, or even foodstuffs (mushrooms). Shared resources require shared responsibilities and produce shared benefits.

  • review article
    biomass, carbon & bioenergy

    A Call to Improve Methods for Estimating Tree Biomass for Regional and National Assessments


    Tree biomass is typically estimated using statistical models. This review highlights five limitations of most tree biomass models, which include the following: (1) biomass data are costly to collect and alternative sampling methods are used; (2) belowground data and models are generally lacking; (3) models are often developed from small and geographically limited data sets; (4) simplistic model forms and predictor variables are used; and (5) variation is commonly averaged or grouped rather than accounted for. The consequences of these limitations are highlighted and discussed. Several recommendations for future efforts are presented including the following: (1) collection of field measurements of tree biomass using consistent protocols; (2) compilation of existing data; (3) continued evaluation and improvement of existing models; (4) exploration of new models; and (5) adoption of state-of-the-art analytical and statistical techniques. Given the increasing importance of accurately estimating forest biomass, there is a critical need to understand, evaluate, and improve current tree biomass prediction methods.


    Forest biomass and carbon are becoming central themes for both management and policy decisions, given the increasing interest in biofuels, greenhouse gas neutrality, and carbon sequestration. For example in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is mandated to report an annual national greenhouse gas inventory to the United Nations, which includes estimates of forest carbon stock changes over time, both for those that release CO2 and for those that sequester it. Biomass inventories are also used by industrial manufacturers of forest products and bioenergy for assessments of resource availability and location of production facilities. Typically these estimates are generated by using models to convert forest inventory data into tree biomass and carbon, but the limitations of these models are rarely acknowledged or fully understood. This review highlights some of the key limitations of the estimation process and provides suggestions for future efforts concentrated on improving estimation of tree biomass. In general, better quantifying tree biomass will help improve forest management and policy decisions. Providing better information and educating model users should prevent some incorrect applications in scenarios where they may not be well suited. Better information should lead to more credible applications of tree biomass models to real-world problems.

  • discussion

    Restoration Is Preparation for the Future

    RESPONSE: Has Forest Restoration Been Freed from the Bonds of History

    RESPONSE: Forest Restoration Is Forward Thinking

  • books

    Large-Scale Forest Restoration

  • commentary
  • departments

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