Managing low productive forests at catchment scale: Considering water, biomass and fire risk to achieve economic feasibility

J Environ Manage. 2019 Feb 1;231:653-665. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.078. Epub 2018 Oct 31.

Abstract

Semi-arid forests are water limited environments considered as low-productive. As a result, these forests usually end up unmanaged and abandoned, with the subsequent wild fire risk increasing, water yield decreasing and a general diminishing of the forest resilience. Hydrological-oriented silviculture could be a useful alternative that increases management possibilities by combining forest productivity and water yield. However, the slight water yield increase after forest management together with the low forest productivity, could make this option insufficient for semi-arid forests, and other goods and services should be included and quantified. In this sense, the present study analyzes to what extent semi-arid forest management for water yield results effective and profitable at catchment scale, and how does it improve when it is combined with other benefits such as biomass production and fire risk diminishing. To that end, the effects of forest management of semi-arid Aleppo pine post-fire regeneration stands are analyzed in terms of water yield (TETIS-VEG model), fire risk (KDBY index and FARSITE) and biomass production, at catchment scale. Regarding to water yield, the results confirmed the slight effect of forest management on its increase (average increase of 0.27 ± 0.29 mm yr-1), at the same time that highlighted the role of the upper catchment area as an important water contributor. The management produced 4161.6 Mg of biomass, and decreased in 27±17% and 25.6 ± 14.1% the fire risk and fire propagation, respectively. Finally, a simple economic estimation of the management profitability is carried out by means of comparing the Benefit/Cost ratio of the managed and unmanaged scenarios. Both scenarios were always above the unity when just considering water as benefit, although the unmanaged scenario produced a higher ratio, as no management costs are expended. Contrarily, when wildfire was also included into the evaluation, the situation is overturned for wildfires equal or higher than 1.5 day duration, where the forest management is shown as the most convenient alternative.

Keywords: Forest ecosystem services; Forest management; Hydrological modeling; Profitability; Water scarcity; Wild fire risk.

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Fires*
  • Forests
  • Water*

Substances

  • Water