A Biosocial Case Evaluation of Wood Biomass Availability Using Silvicultural Simulations and Owner Intentions on Family Forests in Virginia and North Carolina

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Virginia Tech

Interest in wood-based bio-energy systems in the United States is increasing and may play a part in future renewable energy initiatives (Dincer 2000). Family forests have potential to play an important role in supplying wood biomass for energy production. However, access depends mostly on the management intentions among family forest owners. Enhanced biomass markets in regions where family forest ownership dominates could increase productivity by reinvigorating the low-value merchandizing required to accomplish silvicultural objectives. Given diverse owner objectives and forest types on family forests, estimates of biomass availability must include both biophysical and social aspects of procurable feedstock. This thesis chronicles a biosocial case study that estimates potential biomass supply from 51 family forests in Virginia and North Carolina.

The study occurred within a woodshed centered on the future site of an impending ethanol plant in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. A survey instrument using the theory of planned behavior was used to measure ownership characteristics and intention to harvest. Forest attributes were collected during property visits to estimate potential yields resulting from silvicultural simulations.

Results reveal that forest cover-type and tree size significantly affect owner intentions to harvest and owner attitudes toward harvesting partially mediate this relationship. Outputs from silvicultural simulations correspond with those made using Forest Inventory and Analysis data within the study region. Disproportionality was examined by coupling social and biological drivers of sustainable wood biomass availability. Implications of the research include refined estimates of potential supply and demonstrating a multi-scalar, mixed-method approach for assessing wood biomass availability.

Silviculture, Theory of Planned Behavior, Timber Harvest, Family Forest Owner, Biomass, Disproportionality