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Compass Issue 9
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Compass is a quarterly publication of the USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station (SRS). As part of the Nation's largest forestry research organization -- USDA Forest Service Research and Development -- SRS serves 13 Southern States and beyond. The Station's 130 scienists work in more than 20 units located across the region at Federal laboratories, universites, and experimental forests.

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Issue 9

Energy Efficiency

Most experts agree that forest treatments designed to improve tree health in advance of gypsy moth should be done 1 to 3 (ideally 4 to 10) years before the arrival of the pest. Stands not completely recovered from cutting operations may rebound more slowly from gypsy moth infestations. Damage from logging can also attract other insect pests, while dead stumps and root systems attract the organisms that cause root rot.

In May 2007, work started on the treatments for the silvicultural assessment in the Daniel Boone National Forest featured on page 25, with a single contractor performing all the prescriptions designed by Forest Service researchers and cooperators. Callie Schweitzer and a research team from Huntsville, AL, measured trees and understory vegetation in each area before any harvesting.

As part of the assessment, Bob Rummer, project leader of the SRS forest operations unit in Auburn, AL, and his team are analyzing traffic patterns of operators in the plots to measure soil disturbance from skid trails. They will also look at residual stand damage such as stem damage from skidders and root damage from operators driving too close to trees. But Rummer is equally interested in finding out if it's cost-effective to truck out the wood harvested from treatments to facilities that can use them for energy production. The basic system the operators are using to collect biomass is different from the conventional, more mechanized systems routinely used for timber management.

Rummer's team has installed Global Positioning System (GPS) monitors to track the movement of machines within plots. The GPS monitors will allow researchers to visually trace the path of every machine so that they can analyze how biomass is collected in relation to traffic on the stand. "We know there will be less traffic in the denser treatments and that it will be concentrated on a few skid trails, but we don't know the cost of getting the wood out to the road," says Rummer. "I suspect that the shelterwood treatment, as the most open, will be the easiest, maybe the most costeffective, to operate in."

"Operators often chip the wood at road side, which makes it more costeffective to truck it out as fuel," says Rummer. "In this case, the contractor is taking the wood out to a chipping yard. We're trying to find out what the net energy recovery would be for this type of operation. One of the main obstacles to using wood for energy is transportation costs, generally 50 percent of the total wood cost. That may climb higher this summer." -ZH

Back to: The Gypsy Moth Invasion: Can Silviculture Save the Day?

Biomass Collection in the forest
Biomass collected as part of the silvicultural assessment project on the Daniel Boone National Forest (Photo by Jason Thompson, U.S. Forest Service)

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