A technique for predicting clear-wood production in hardwood stems: A model for evaluating hardwood plantation development and managementThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The management of artificial hardwood stands suffers from a paucity of information. As a result, many managers and scientists turn to conventional pine plantation management as a source for informing silvicultural decisions. Such an approach when managing hardwoods ignores the development occurring in natural hardwood stands, which produce stems prized for their growth and form. Contrary to a volumetric focus, stem quality is extremely important in the valuation of hardwood stands. The monetary value of a stand is directly related to the quality of individual stems within that stand. Growing a hardwood bole that is clear of branches, knots, and defects, or growing "clear wood," can significantly increase the return on a hardwood plantation investment. We investigated an approach to forecast the impact of hardwood plantation establishment and management decisions on the production of "clear wood." A model was developed that predicts, through a series of simultaneous equations, the growth and development of first-order branches and subsequent branch occlusion. Our investigation focused on cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda), an economically valuable southern bottomland species. The resultant model provides the user with output regarding stem quality. Users then can evaluate the impact of decisions such as initial spacing, species composition, and plantation arrangement on hardwood log quality. This approach may be expanded to other economically important species. Therefore, we briefly discuss the data requirements for expanding this approach to other species or species groups. In addition, we explore some of the possible uses for this tool in future research and management planning.