Master's Projects, Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation

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  • Identifying Key Challenges and Opportunities in Urban and Community Forestry in California: Insights from California Practitioners
    Christensen, Brittany (2023-12)
    This study builds upon previous studies on the state of urban and community forestry in California and expands on a recent nationwide survey effort to assess the economic impacts of urban and community forestry on a regional basis, across multiple, interacting sectors. By conducting a similar assessment of issues, challenges, and opportunities, this study adds to a growing body of knowledge about urban and community forestry. Using a mixed methods sampling approach, we recruited a total of 189 survey participants from the following sectors: nonprofit organizations (n=37), private green businesses (n=106), and public municipal governments (n=46). Challenges related to management operations, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, workforce diversity, and equitable access to urban forests were compared among sectors to find statistically significant differences in perceptions of challenges and to provide insights into the challenges needing the greatest focus and the opportunities for collaboration among the sectors. The greatest operational challenges across all sectors are the lack of monetary resources to conduct urban forestry activities and the lack of public awareness or cooperation. The nonprofit sector revealed heightened awareness of climate change impacts and a greater focus on improving workforce diversity and equitable access to urban forests for underserved communities.
  • McDonald Hollow Trail Network Visitor Use and Trail Impact Study: A First Look
    Lindsay, Matthew (2022-08-23)
    The recent construction of the McDonald Hollow Trail Network located in Blacksburg, Virginia presents an important opportunity to explore early stage soil degradation and visitor use patterns on a public multi-use trail. Through the creation of permanent transects along each trail and the implementation of a visitor use survey, initial usage and impact patterns can begin to be observed. This not only addresses a gap in the outdoor recreation literature in regard to early stage trail impacts, this report will also serve to provide the Town of Blacksburg and other stakeholders a robust tool and dataset to guide future maintenance and trail development on Brush Mountain. The following chapters will provide protocols for the implementation and data collection processes for visitor use and trail impact monitoring as well as an examination of data collected during this initial study period (Fall, 2021 to Summer, 2022). In doing so, the groundwork will be laid for the continual monitoring of visitor use and trail impacts at McDonald Hollow moving forward.
  • Initial Performance of Trees in an Urban Stormwater Bioretention System
    Apisa, Ethan A. (2022-04-28)
    Stormwater runoff is an issue in urban areas as impervious surfaces increase. Various bioretention systems that incorporate trees have been developed but are expensive, technically complex, and require large amounts of space, which limits their widespread use as a stormwater solution. This study investigated a novel design for a bioretention system that is less complex and may hold promise as an inexpensive approach to capturing runoff and growing trees near impervious surfaces. The system comprises a large bed of gravel surrounding a trench of topsoil planted with trees. The gravel bed captures and retains stormwater from adjacent hardscapes. Roots extending outward from the topsoil into the gravel bed absorb and recycle captured water through transpiration. A full-scale field prototype of this system was constructed adjacent to a parking lot on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA in spring 2020. The system was planted with three London planetree (Platanus × acerifolia ‘Morton Circle’), which were compared to three control trees of the same species planted concurrently in nearby native control soil. The purpose of this study was to monitor stormwater capture by the bioretention system and evaluate tree growth and physiological function during the second growing season following planting. Because the topsoil in the gravel bed was of better quality than the native control soil, trees in the gravel bed exhibited greater water use efficiency and had larger and denser crowns during the study period. Under prevailing precipitation conditions, the gravel bed rarely captured runoff exceeding its volume capacity, and the residence time of water in the system rarely lasted more than 48 hours before draining via deep infiltration into the underlying subsoil.
  • Biomass Harvesting Effects on Soil Physical Properties in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina
    Chandler, Josh (Virginia Tech, 2011-11-11)
    Biomass harvesting offers opportunities to produce portions of US energy demands from renewable resources, yet there are concerns that biomass harvesting could deplete nutrient reserves, increase potential for soil erosion, or lead to problems associated with increased forest trafficking. On intensively managed loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations on relatively flat coastal plain terrain, nutrient demands may be met with fertilization and soil erosion is of lower concern. However, soil disturbance associated specifically with coastal plain biomass harvests for renewable energy production have not been widely documented. Soil disturbance classes and physical properties were examined on three intensities of biomass harvesting on a 52 ha loblolly pine plantation in the North Carolina coastal plain. Study objectives were to determine if biomass harvesting intensity and associated traffic were correlated with changes in soil physical properties or visual soil disturbance classifications. Harvesting intensities included in the designed operational study were: 1) roundwood removal only, 2) integrated harvest including roundwood removal and biomass production, and 3) chip only harvest where all trees were removed and chipped for biomass. Harvesting treatments were replicated 3 times each (9 experimental units) using a randomized complete block design. Soil properties were evaluated pre- and post-harvest to determine harvesting related impacts. Results indicate that most soil physical properties were not significantly altered due to harvest level with the exception of small deck areas. These data indicate that biomass harvesting did not result in visual or physical changes to soil properties as compared to traditional harvests and indicate that standard best management practices may be adequate to address biomass harvesting issues for similar sites.
  • Growing Trees in a Gravel Bed Stormwater Retention System as a Novel Approach to Stormwater Management in Urban Sites
    Sprouls, Jason M. (2020-05-19)
    Dense urban areas are typically covered by impervious surfaces used to construct roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks. Sealing over soils with impervious surfaces increases stormwater runoff volume and reduces water quality downstream. Green infrastructure technologies are a commonly used stormwater control measure that can capture stormwater runoff generated from impervious surfaces. The inclusion of woody and herbaceous plants in green infrastructure mitigates stormwater runoff through canopy interception, increased soil infiltration, and evapotranspiration. However, planting trees situated amongst impervious surfaces remains difficult because they suffer from slow growth rates and shortened lifespans due to the soil compaction necessary to create a stable pavement, which diminishes the water storage capacity of soils and hampers root system development. These green infrastructure technologies in ultra-urban areas also present extremely harsh growing environments for trees due to soil moisture extremes, inhospitable microclimates, and pollution contamination. The subject of this paper is a gravel bed stormwater retention system that was developed to address the combined needs of a stable hardscape, belowground stormwater storage, and tree root development to lead to large, long-lived trees that both intercept precipitation and transpire captured runoff. The design specifications of this system are intended to be low-cost, technically simple, and highly adaptable based on site configuration and intended stormwater capture. This paper describes a pilot project on the Virginia Tech campus that constructed the first multi-tree gravel bed stormwater retention system, which aims to evaluate the functionality and feasibility of the system. This pilot study will raise awareness of trees in green infrastructure systems and provide information about the cost-effectiveness and practicality of the gravel bed stormwater retention system. Also included in this paper is an investigation of the ecophysiological and morphological adaptations that tree species confer to adapt to the unique hydrologic regime and substrate found in green infrastructure systems. Through a rigorous review of literature, a species suitability model was populated by 75 tree species. The model stratified species into groups based on foliage type and mature size to provide a diverse palette of species to allow practitioners to configure the gravel bed stormwater retention system based on cultural conditions, aboveground space limitations, and site-specific environmental challenges.
  • Identifying Impediments to Completing an Urban Forest Canopy Assessment in Municipalities in the State of Virginia
    West, William (Virginia Tech, 2010-05-12)
    Tree canopy assessments help identify the extent and location of urban forest resources under management. Tree canopy assessments give a picture of what the urban forest resource looks like presently; and can be used to establish and track management goals for a municipality and quantify benefits being provided by the urban forest. Such an assessment can also help guide the most effective distribution of labor and resources. However, many municipalities in Virginia do not have canopy assessments and are unable to realize these benefits. To assess what impediments urban forestry professionals of small municipalities in Virginia are facing, we conducted a focus group meeting of experienced urban foresters via teleconference. Participants were asked about their perceptions and knowledge of tree canopy assessments. Participants had general knowledge of the benefits of an assessment, but generally lacked, or had varying degrees of knowledge of the methodologies for conducting an assessment. Participants expressed concerns on topics such as funding an assessment; communicating the value of an assessment to decision makers and citizens; and the use of volunteers in gathering information for a tree canopy assessment. Specific suggestions generated by the focus group to overcome perceived or real impediments were a website resource for urban forestry professionals co-sponsored by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Forestry and coordinated support for the Tree Stewards Program at the state level to improve success using volunteers for urban forest assessment. In addition, participants agreed that a survey of urban forest decision makers from municipalities across the state would help Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Forestry better target outreach programs to meet municipal needs in urban forest canopy assessment.
  • Tree Selection Guide for Mid-Atlantic Silvopastures
    Beegle, Dana Kirley (Virginia Tech, 2019-02-01)
    Silvopasture is a farming practice that intentionally combines trees, forages, and livestock grazing for the purpose of increasing overall productivity. Although silvopasture in the United States has historically been concentrated in the southeast, it holds great promise in the Mid-Atlantic region as well. However, lack of research specific to silvopasture in this region, has kept adoption rates low. Landowners interested in silvopasture need information to encourage adoption and make sound establishment and management decisions. An important management decision for silvopasture establishment is tree selection. First-time adopters (and technical service providers) need resources and information to help them choose the most suitable and most productive species for their site and operation goals. Plant and tree selection tools are widely available for horticulture applications. However, few exist for agroforestry-based systems, and no comprehensive list or selection guide has been developed for silvopasture establishment in the Mid-Atlantic region specifically. This project seeks to fill that void. To begin this project, I used a variety of horticulture- and forestry-based information sources to research trees native to the Mid-Atlantic region. For each tree, I collected information that we identified as having the greatest relevance to silvopasture establishment including site preferences (pH, soil moisture, and hardiness zone), ability to tolerate site and weather extremes (heat/drought, flood, shade, and wind/ice), physical characteristics (crown features, root structure, growth rate, and mature height), potential utility (markets, fodder and coppice potential, rate of CO2 sequestration, and other benefits), and maintenance needs (pest/disease issues). From this body of information, we selected a diverse group of 20 trees that are highly suitable and productive for silvopasture in this region based on crown characteristics, rooting patters, and growth rate; while offering Mid-Atlantic producers a range of choices for various site conditions and operation goals. This information is presented in a quick-reference chart that can be used in the field or office by landowners and technical service professionals. It includes a brief description of how to use this chart as well as guidance on source and availability of plant material. This is our Tree Selection Guide for Mid-Atlantic Silvopastures. Our hope is that this list of 20 trees will be expanded over time to include more species and perhaps become available as an online or phone-based selection tool.
  • The effect of an adhesive on pallet joint stiffness
    Frackiewicz, Thomas Ian (Virginia Tech, 1983)
  • Reducing the Conflict between Trees and Overhead Utility Lines through Public Awareness and Education
    Matiuk, Jonathan D. (Virginia Tech, 2016-09-08)
    Trees in the built environment often have the potential to grow large enough to touch overhead utility lines, creating a dangerous interaction between the urban forest and utility infrastructure. The purpose of this project is to address the prevalent conflicts between urban forests and utility lines by raising awareness and educating the public of the seriousness of the conflicts and of the possible solutions to manage the conflicts. By creating additional resources that can be used to educate or spread awareness of the importance in preventing the conflict by planting trees of appropriate size and form, homeowners and utility companies could save money on regular tree pruning, tree removal, and costly infrastructure repair that is passed on to the consumer through increased electricity costs. The first product of the project takes advantage of an established online horticultural and arboricultural community webpage, called Plants Map, where the full inventories of five Virginia “utility arboreta” have been uploaded. The utility arboreta were designed to illustrate appropriate trees to plant near and underneath utility lines. Previously, the arboreta displayed limited information on each tree. Plants Map allows visitors of the arboreta to use their smart phones to open a webpage displayed on plant tags that will be purchased for each tree. The second product is a newly written publication for Virginia Cooperative Extension that discusses the necessity for conflicting trees to be removed or pruned, that removing conflicting trees and replacing them with appropriate trees is typically the most cost effective solution, and that trees 25 feet or shorter in height at maturity are the most appropriate to plant underneath utility lines. These two products combine to provide the means for the general public to gain an appreciation of the dangers of tree and utility line conflicts and that planting small trees instead of large ones near utility lines has the potential to save significant amounts of money in future tree care.
  • Stewardship Plan for Virginia Tech's Old-Growth Forest near Lane Stadium
    Walters, Rodney S. (Virginia Tech, 2016-08)
    The Stewardship Plan for Virginia Tech’s Old-Growth near Lane Stadium is a thorough compilation of essential tasks and prioritized recommendations for the protection and posterity of the urban old-growth forest patch, known unofficially as Stadium Woods. This Forest Stewardship Plan includes executive oversight input from a joint venture between Virginia Tech’s Vice President of Administration and the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. Using the initial findings of the ad hoc Athletic Practice Facility Site Evaluation Committee, this Forest Stewardship Plan provides recommendations to sustain Stadium Woods as a multifunctional, interconnected, and integrated forest that functions as a green infrastructure facility for Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg. This Forest Stewardship Plan is effective in minimizing human impacts and maintaining the forest’s functionality as a high quality ecosystem that provides maximum benefits while incurring minimum costs over time.
  • Landscape Tree Inventory and Management Plan for the United Company Corporate Campus, Bristol, Virginia
    Worrell, William (Virginia Tech, 2010-04-27)
    The United Company’s corporate headquarters resides on 65 acres in a residential area just east of downtown Bristol, Virginia. The main office complex on the south side of campus is accented by a mixed landscape of trees, shrubs, and lawns. In 2008, foresters with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech were contracted to develop a landscape tree management plan for the corporate campus. A complete tree inventory was conducted in summer 2008 to assess campus tree composition and maintenance needs. The inventory provided the basis for developing the management plan, which describes the priorities, goals, and objectives that should guide landscape tree management on the United Company corporate campus over the next decade and beyond. The inventory enumerated 630 landscape trees consisting of 67 different species. Flowering dogwood, yellow-poplar, and eastern white pine were the three most abundant species, each accounting for about 15% of the total population. The campus landscape is dominated by mature and geriatric trees. Despite the “graying” of the tree population, it is in fair to good condition overall. Structural defects that may threaten tree stability were commonly observed in the inventoried trees. Fortunately, most of these defects were mild to moderate and do not pose a significant threat to the landscape. However, critical defects were observed in several trees and should be attended to immediately. An assortment of disorders that may threaten tree health were also observed in campus trees. Prevalent disorders included trunk wounds, soil compaction, buried root collars, and inadequate mulching. These disorders can threaten tree health and should be addressed through a systematic tree maintenance program. In this paper, general recommendations for tree planting, maintenance, and removal are provided based on the primary goal of attaining a safe, attractive, and sustainable campus forest. In addition, specific management recommendations are provided for 11 critical-priority trees, 8 notable trees, and 3 prevalent species groups. Finally, an appendix has been assembled at the end of this report to provide definitions on common tree care terms and guidance on common tree care practices.
  • GIS Applications in Urban Tree Inventory
    Otey, Jennifer K. (Virginia Tech, 2007-08-09)
    This project evaluates and demonstrates some applications of a GIS-based urban tree inventory. This was done by (1) collecting and analyzing data for Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), and (2) collecting and evaluating data for the Virginia Tech campus tree inventory. The urban tree inventory at Tinker AFB was estimated using remote sensing techniques that included the use of the eCognition 3.0 software. Inventory data was collected using a handheld computer and transferred to a desktop for data backup and analysis. Data was evaluated for urban forest structure and composition. The data collected for Tinker AFB was additionally analyzed for potential runway obstacles. CITYgreen software was used to determine tree canopy coverage and i-Tree STRATUM was used to compare against CITYgreen. Both CITYgreen and i-Tree are very useful tools for urban foresters, the purpose of the inventory should direct which software is utilized. An urban tree inventory provides a baseline to work from, facilitates management decisions, and provides a basis for future evaluation.
  • Designing an Urban Forest Inventory System for a Small Municipality: A Case Study of Falls Church, Virginia
    Walker, Catriona (Virginia Tech, 2015-05-16)
    The City of Falls Church, Virginia is an independent city in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, with a population of 13,600 within its two square mile jurisdiction. The City's residents are justifiably proud of their beautiful and extensive urban forest. Falls Church has been a Tree City USA for thirty-six years, longer than any other community in Virginia, and the protection of its mature trees and expansion of its tree canopy are key goals in the City's Comprehensive Plan. This report describes the development and testing of a tree inventory system for the City using the ESRI ArcGIS data mapping platform. The database design and the procedures for data collection are described and illustrated. Strengths and limitations of the ESRI software and hardware options for the purpose of collecting and displaying tree inventory data are considered, and recommendations are made for further development of the inventory system. It is hoped that this case study will be of use to other entities considering the creation of a complete or partial tree inventory.
  • Strategies for Sustainable Development of Non-Timber Forest Products in Senegal
    Sene, Abdou (Virginia Tech, 2001-10-22)
    In recent years, forests have been increasingly recognized as rich reservoirs for many valuable biological resources. As a result of the devastation caused by drought, clearing land for agriculture, and overexploitation of timber, there has been a growing interest in non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The Senegal Forestry Action Plan, designed to ensure sustainable forest management, stresses the importance of identifying the constraints to and opportunities for sustainable development of non-timber forest products. This paper seeks to accomplish this and to suggest sustainable new NTFP development initiatives. First, data on products and prices from Senegal's Forestry Service and reports and other documents were examined to identify constraints to NTFP management and opportunities for NTFP development. Then, a thorough literature review of topics related to NTFPs was completed. Informal interviews with NTFP specialists were also conducted. Finally, a case study analysis examined NTFP management and utilization in conditions similar to Senegal. Management and utilization constraints can be removed when policies involve local populations. While some policy opportunities facilitate sustainable management, further efforts must be made to involve all NTFP stakeholders. Successful programs will organize stakeholder groups or enterprises, inventory all forest resources, develop NTFP focused pilot projects including the cultivation of native NTFP species, and give gender considerations high priority.
  • Culture and Propagation of Japanese Maple
    Phillips, Guy (Virginia Tech, 2003-12-12)
    Japanese maples have maintained a steady presence in nurseries and across the suburban landscape of America for many years now. Their fineness of texture, relatively small stature, and colorful displays are attributes that have earned them the admiration of studied horticulturalists and casual observers alike. This document attempts to compile the published accounts of several decades of observations and experiments pertaining to the general culture and propagation of Japanese maples, most specifically, information pertaining to Acer palmatum. In addition to aesthetic beauty, several factors combine to make Japanese maple a valuable horticultural species. These factors are: seedling variability, wide-ranging environmental adaptability, moderate ease of asexual propagation, limited problems with pest and pathogens in both nursery and landscape settings, and consistent commercial value and appeal. Despite the popularity and overall viability of Japanese maple cultivation, information concerning the species, particularly research information, is somewhat lacking.
  • A description of floral diversity in the southern Appalachians with forest management considerations for conservation
    Brown, Maryfrances McGrath (Virginia Tech, 1994-05-04)
    Biological diversity is the variety of plant and animal life, habitats and ecosystems, and the biological processes and functions within them. It is this simple yet profoundly important concept in biology which in recent years has become an issue of great concern to the lay public and scientific community alike. The cause for this concern lies in the current rapid destruction and transformation of many ecosystems worldwide. From temperate and tropical rain forests to coral reefs, the loss of habitat due to the pressures of an expanding human population threatens the existence of numerous species of plants and animals. It is suspected that thousands of species of plants and animals are being lost before ever being described, let alone tested for their usefulness as medicines or crops (Wilson 1988). Over 25% of prescription drugs available today contain active compounds that are extracted directly from plants (Ledig 1988). In addition, the cross breeding of domesticated crop species with wild relatives has resulted in improved disease resistance in crops such as barley, rice, cassava, sugarcane, and com (Plotkin 1986). Thus, the loss of habitat and the possible extirpation or extinction of plant and animal species may mean the loss of potential life-saving drugs and crop-enhancing wild relatives.
  • Fertilization and Woody Plant Nutrition in the Context of the Urban Forest
    Watkins, James R. (Virginia Tech, 1998-10-05)
    Fertilization of urban trees is often based on traditional forestry objectives. These objectives and resultant attributes may not be desired in urban trees. The majority of research and the ensuing recommendations regarding fertilizer amounts and formulations comes from agricultural models, pomology, and industrial forestry - very little from arboriculture. Lack of water and inadequate soil volumes are responsible for many of the problems that beset urban trees. More research is needed in water deficit mitigation, establishing nutrient sufficiency and deficiency levels in urban trees, the role of fertilization in disease remediation and increased pathogenesis, and the effects of long term fertilization on trees in the urban landscape.
  • An Investigation of Factors Leading to Establishing Downstream Timber Processing in Malaysia
    Hashim, Norchahaya Jr. (Virginia Tech, 1998-08-04)
    The Malaysian timber industry has made tremendous progress towards making this sector one of the country's important foreign exchange earners. From a major exporter of tropical logs, it shifted to become a reliable exporter of high quality sawn timber during the 1980s. Realizing the need to maintain long availability of its raw material supply and with the intention of achieving higher value from its timber resource, Malaysia has decided the direction and future of its timber sector. The first Industrial Master Plan (IMP) was launched in 1985 with the objective of making Malaysia a highly visible and reputable center for furniture, joinery, and molding. Therefore, this study is intended to assess factors leading towards promoting the use of timber in downstream processing furniture manufacturing. This study had four objectives. Firstly, to identify and describe factors that affect the export performance of furniture. Secondly, this study described trade policies, incentives, and government efforts that supported the development of the furniture industry in Malaysia. Thirdly, a regression model was used to quantify the relationships among these factors in order to predict the export of wooden furniture from Malaysia. Lastly, this study suggests measures that could be taken to enhance the position of the Malaysian furniture industry in the global market. In understanding the position of Malaysia's furniture market, this study began with a review of international furniture trade and policy development. Two of the world's major markets for furniture, the United States and Japan, were examined to understand their furniture industries, requirements, and market trends. In addition, brief profiles were presented of furniture and related industries and markets of three significant furniture suppliers from Asia: Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand. The structure of Malaysia's furniture industry was examined and reviewed, in order to have a better understanding of its size and export potential. The Malaysian furniture industry is comprised of small units of factories, particularly the factories located in the furniture villages and accounting for 70% of the numbers. Seventy five percent of these medium and large factories are locally owned and the remaining are either joint ventures or foreign owned. To help expedite the objective as specified under the IMP, the Malaysian government and its agencies have formulated several measures, with the purpose to provide an industrial and business environment conducive to the industry. In this study, important factors which influenced the development of this sector were examined. The supply of raw materials has been an important factor that could affect the establishment of the processing industry and its competitiveness. In addition to this, the current issue of Malaysian Ringgit depreciation has been taken into account. The Malaysian exchange rate to the U.S. Dollar was linked to the United States import price indexes to see their impact on the export performance of Malaysian furniture. The supply and price variables were found significant and elastic to the export of furniture from Malaysia. The export predictions were made for three-year periods. Due to the financial crisis that hit Asia last July, there are many uncertainties on these independent variables that could affect the accuracy of the export predictions. Nevertheless, the model developed should be useful and reliable once revised projections of these variables are made available.