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Economic Feasibility of Managing Loblolly Pine Forests for Water Production under Climate Change in the Southeastern United States

Susaeta, Andres, Adams, Damian C., Gonzalez-Benecke, Carlos, Soto, José R.
Forests 2017 v.8 no.3
Pinus taeda, climate change, climatic factors, coniferous forests, econometric models, economic feasibility, forest ownership, land values, plant density, plantations, planting density, prediction, prices, profitability, timber production, water supply, water yield, yields, Southeastern United States
In this study, we assessed the impacts of climate change, forest management, and different forest productivity conditions on the water yield and profitability of loblolly pine stands in the southeastern United States. Using the 3-PG (Physiological Processes Predicting Growth) model, we determined different climatic projections and then employed a stand level economic model that incorporates, for example, prices for timber and increased water yield. We found that, under changing climatic conditions, water yield increases with thinnings and low levels of tree planting density. On average, under moderate climatic conditions, water yield increases by 584 kL·ha−1 and 97 kL·ha−1 for low and high productivity conditions, respectively. Under extreme climatic conditions, water yield increases by 100 kL·ha−1 for low productivity conditions. Land expectation values increase by 96% ($6653.7 ha−1) and 95% ($6424.1 ha−1) for each climatic scenario compared to those obtained for unthinned loblolly pine plantations managed only for timber production and under current climatic conditions. The contributions of payments for increased water yield to the land values were 38% ($2530.1 ha−1) and 30% ($1894.8 ha−1). Results suggest that payments for water yield may be a “win-win” strategy to sustainably improve water supply and the economic conditions of forest ownership in the region.