Optimizing forest management in consideration of environmental regulations, economic constraints, and ecosystem services
Schroder, Svetlana A.
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Forest management is a multi-objective problem. Managers must plan treatments and harvests while accounting for multiple factors such as environmental regulations, economic and silvicultural constraints, and ecosystem services. Decision support in forestry management can benefit from a comprehensive approach to develop strategies that meet all the constraints while also accounting for their effects on ecosystem services. My research provides practical methods for decision support in forest management that can enhance forest stewardship and facilitate planning and communicating proposed actions and their effects to the public. Optimization can be effectively applied to solving such management problems, and can serve as a basis for an integrated approach. Mathematical models have the benefit of low cost associated with multiple reruns of an existing model, and often the addition of new conditions and/or data does not require changing the model's entire structure. Changes to the model's input and conditions are reflected in its output values, and these results can be conveniently summarized and interpreted for use in forest management. These qualities can be used to analyze how the provision of ecosystem services changes depending on different management decisions, or strategies that are subject to multiple environmental regulations and constraints. My research resulted in a number of practically applicable methods and conclusions to facilitate planning and decision making in forest management. Approaches proposed in this dissertation demonstrated the potential to 1) evaluate environmental regulations with regard to their unintended effects on land management as well as their effectiveness in achieving their intended goals; 2) identify the guiding factor for allocating fuel treatments to reduce fire hazard landscape-wide; 3) estimating environmental risks associated with fuel treatments; and 4) quantify tradeoffs between management objectives. The mathematical programs described here produce management plans, allowing managers to analyze the effects and assess the tradeoffs of different strategies on ecosystem services and land management, rather than designing and evaluating such strategies manually. The practical results are useful not only to achieve the stated management goals but also for communicating the potential consequences of the proposed actions to stakeholders and evaluating the possibilities for providing ecosystem services for sale on the market.
- Forestry