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Linking state-and-transition simulation and timber supply models for forest biomass production scenarios

Jennifer K. Costanza Robert C. Abt Alexa J. McKerrow Jaime A. Collazo

*Corresponding author: Jennifer K. Costanza jennifer_costanza@ncsu.edu

environmental2015,2,180doi:10.3934/environsci.2015.2.180

We linked state-and-transition simulation models (STSMs) with an economics-based timber supply model to examine landscape dynamics in North Carolina through 2050 for three scenarios of forest biomass production. Forest biomass could be an important source of renewable energy in the future, but there is currently much uncertainty about how biomass production would impact landscapes. In the southeastern US, if forests become important sources of biomass for bioenergy, we expect increased land-use change and forest management. STSMs are ideal for simulating these landscape changes, but the amounts of change will depend on drivers such as timber prices and demand for forest land, which are best captured with forest economic models. We first developed state-and-transition model pathways in the ST-Sim software platform for 49 vegetation and land-use types that incorporated each expected type of landscape change. Next, for the three biomass production scenarios, the SubRegional Timber Supply Model (SRTS) was used to determine the annual areas of thinning and harvest in five broad forest types, as well as annual areas converted among those forest types, agricultural, and urban lands. The SRTS output was used to define area targets for STSMs in ST-Sim under two scenarios of biomass production and one baseline, business-as-usual scenario. We show that ST-Sim output matched SRTS targets in most cases. Landscape dynamics results indicate that, compared with the baseline scenario, forest biomass production leads to more forest and, specifically, more intensively managed forest on the landscape by 2050. Thus, the STSMs, informed by forest economics models, provide important information about potential landscape effects of bioenergy production.

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