Environmental Performance Index for the Forest

Bruce Lippke, Jeffrey Comnick, Leonard R. Johnson

Abstract


Comparative environmental performance indices for energy use, global warming potential (GWP), air, water, and solid waste emissions covering the stages of processing from the harvesting of wood and the extraction of non-renewable materials to the construction of a house using different materials are developed in other articles. Developing performance indices that compare renewable resources and their environmental impacts on the land base to the depletion of non-renewable resources is problematic. Materials that involve mining are inherently not renewable compared to forest resources, which are renewable over some rotation age of the forest. The environmental impacts on the forest are dynamic and are impacted by landscape changes with some related to the production of wood for markets. Forest ecology metrics are developed to show the impact of management alternatives based on changing stand structures. Forest diversity, measured by structure classes, is impacted by longer rotation and thinning alternatives as well as preservation and protection policies.

Management alternatives can contribute to some restoration of pre-settlement conditions of forests and provides a benchmark from which to evaluate reduced stand structure diversity and loss of habitat. While a century of commercial management has reduced the diversity in the forest and in particular has increased the share of acres in both the stand initiation stage and the closed canopy or stem exclusion stage, the trend has already turned in response to demands for more forest acres under increased protection and preservation status. Increased thinning from more intensive management and policies to protect threatened species are both contributing to increased understory reinitiation and ultimately more complex old forest structures. Longer rotation management could add to this effect but at a substantial cost since the economics of long rotation management falls below acceptable levels for economic investments.


Keywords


Biodiversity;forest management;intensive management;forest diversity;restoration;environmental performance

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