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Title:Can the urban forest be managed for lumber values without compromising ecosystem values?
Author(s):Gilbert, Dominique Synove
Contributor(s):Chakraborty, Arnab
Department / Program:Urban & Regional Planning
Discipline:Urban Planning
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Urban Forest Management
Street Trees Management
Abstract:Urban trees provide a number of ecosystem services to cities for aesthetic, ecological, and economic benefits, including flood control, shade and energy savings, and wildlife habitat. In addition, good quality urban cut-off can be milled and sold for furniture or high-end wood production, instead of chipped or discarded in landfills in states that still permit the landfilling of trees. This adds value to materials traditionally considered of little worth, prevents the wasteful habit of chipping good quality lumber and in states where downed trees are still landfilled, leaves more space for waste streams for which there are no other options. Urban trees are heavily managed and regularly pruned and cleared from streets when they die, are damaged or require adjusting to meet city ordinances. This results in tons of wood debris annually and since many of the urban trees in United States cities possess good quality wood, there is a strong case for diverting that wood to the furniture or high-end wood markets. Urban street trees should be considered not only for their ecological systems benefits but also for their wood. If cities are to increase the economic value of urban forests by diverting wood to high-end furniture markets, the potential tradeoffs with other ecosystem services must be explored. My research examines the potential economic benefits and tradeoffs for cities to manage their urban forests with the explicit goal of increasing the merchantable timber yield of urban forests. Specifically, I ask whether cities can manage their urban forests to increase the economic return from lumber production and whether this management comes at the potential expense of the other services urban trees provide. Using literature values and interviews with arborists, millers and other urban tree professionals, I estimate the lumber value of common North American street trees. I use the program i-Tree Streets, one of the suite of tools in the U.S. Forest Service's i-Tree software, to estimate the ecosystem service values of five street tree inventories which includes cities located both in the temperate and subtropic regions of the United States. By accounting for the lumber in these inventories, values increase from 99% to 170%. Further, by accounting for valuable lumber trees and then managing those trees for their lumber value, by increasing the expensive lumber species and decreasing less expensive species, cities can increase total lifetime values by 186% to 308% with no loss to ecosystems benefits. These findings suggest that cities can manage their urban forests to increase lumber values while taking into account other constraints on species selection, including biodiversity and suitability for urban environments. There is no evidence of potential tradeoffs in ecosystem service values if cities increase lumber potential. Interviews reveal that there are a number of business models that can prove successful solutions for cities interested in marketing street tree lumber.
Issue Date:2016-04-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Dominique Gilbert
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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