An incremental economic analysis of establishing early successional habitat for biodiversity
Early successional habitat (ESH) is an important component of natural landscapes and is crucial to maintaining biodiversity. ESH also impacts endangered species. The extent of forest disturbances resulting in ESH has been diminishing, and foresters have developed timber management regimes using standard silvicultural techniques that enhance ESH. We developed a financial framework to evaluate these ESH-enhancing forest management regimes, driven by differences in timber harvest costs and timber revenue. The economic model was applied to on-the-ground prescriptions in the Nantahala National Forest (NNF) designed to increase biodiversity and foster improved public awareness of the importance of ESH. Bats, a current conservation concern, commonly exploit ESH and were the focus of our prescriptions. The prescriptions were based on shelterwood cuts of varying patch size, spacing between the cuts, and the trail area required to move from patch to patch. The results showed that prescriptions with large patch areas were effective in increasing ESH, with minimal impact on the financial performance of timber harvesting operations. This information can be used to minimize financial losses while catering to wildlife species that prefer ESH, in addition to increasing overall biodiversity.