Value-added forest management planning: A new perspective on old-growth forest conservation in the fire-prone boreal landscape of Canada.
Baburam Rijal, Luc Lebel, David L. Martell, Sylvie Gauthier, Jean-Martin Lussier, Frédérick Raulier.
The maintenance of old-growth stands is important for sustaining natural forest ecosystems, but fire disturbances and commonly-used timber harvest practices exert adverse impacts on the retention of old-growth forests. Forest management planning prescribes harvest levels based on the planning policy and models, but the impact of the management strategies on the retention of old-growth forests has not been well studied. The objectives of this study were to examine: a) the impact of implementing three different harvest policies on the retention of old-growth forest and b) the impact of implementing a policy of maintaining a targeted minimum of 20% old-growth area on the harvest revenue that would be generated over a long planning horizon. To simulate the implementation of these policies, we developed three strategic timber harvest-scheduling models. The first model (Model 1) maximizes harvest timber volume; Model 2 maximizes the net present value (NPV) of the timber harvested; and Model 3 maximizes the NPV of value-added products at the primary processing mills. The value-added products we considered were lumber, chips and sawdust. The models were solved for three forest management units with different fire regimes. Solutions to models that did not include a strict constraint on old-growth forest area retention did not retain the targeted level of old-growth forest over a 150-year planning horizon. When an old-growth constraint was implemented, Model 3 produced the greatest revenue with the least variation by 5-year period over the planning horizon. The probability of finding a feasible solution to our optimization Model 3 with an old-growth forest constraint increased to 0.87–1.0 compared with 0.71–0.83 using Model 1, and 0.78–0.87 using Model 2. We conclude that the value-added policy model increases the probability of sustaining the bioeconomy while preserving forest ecosystems initiated by disturbance.