Assessing sustainable management of Eucalyptus and Populus as short-rotation woody crops

Increasing demands for forest-based fiber for products and energy can place pressure on existing forests in some locations. Short-rotation woody crops (SRWCs), tree species managed intensively to produce high quantities of fiber over short intervals, can provide a consistent fiber supply to help meet these demands.

Species of the genus Eucalyptus may serve an expanded role in supplying high quality fiber in the southern U.S. due to their high productivity and to newly developed cold hardy varieties, while Populus species are currently the most widely planted SRWC in the U.S. and offer the greatest potential across a range of sites and regions.

Results were recently published from an assessment of the sustainable management of these genera planted as SRWCs in the United States. The review draws upon scientific evidence worldwide, focusing on implications for site productivity, invasiveness, biological diversity, and water use, and summarizes relevant criteria in certification programs. The assessment was prepared by Eric D. Vance, Craig Loehle, T. Bently Wigley, and Philip R. Weatherford and published in the journal Forests. The abstract follows.

Short-rotation woody crops (SRWC), fast growing tree species that are harvested on short, repeated intervals, can augment traditional fiber sources. These crops have economic and environmental benefits stemming from their capability of supplying fiber on a reduced land base in close proximity to users and when sensitive sites cannot be accessed. Eucalyptus and Populus appear to be genera with the greatest potential to provide supplemental fiber in the U.S. Optimal productivity can be achieved
through practices that overcome site limitations and by choosing the most appropriate sites, species, and clones. Some Eucalyptus species are potentially invasive, yet field studies across multiple continents suggest they are slower to disperse than predicted by risk assessments. Some studies have found lower plant and animal diversity in SRWC systems compared to mature, native forests, but greater than some alterative land uses and strongly influenced by stand management, land use history, and landscape context. Eucalyptus established in place of grasslands, arable lands, and, in some cases, native forests can reduce streamflow and lower water tables due to higher interception and transpiration rates but results vary widely, are scale dependent, and are most evident in drier regions.

  

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Reference 

Vance, E. D., C. Loehle, T. B. Wigley, and P. R. Weatherford. 2014. Scientific basis for sustainable management of Eucalyptus and Populus as short-rotation woody crops in the U.S. Forests 5:901-918. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/f5050901