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

Short-rotation woody crops (SRWCs) are capable of producing high quantities of fiber over short intervals and can provide a consistent source of fiber to help meet increasing demands for products and energy. Species of the genus Eucalyptus may serve an expanded role in supplying high quality fiber in the southern US due to their high productivity and to newly developed cold hardy varieties, while Populus species are currently the most widely planted SRWC in the US and offer the greatest potential across a range of sites and regions.
Results recently were published from an assessment of the sustainable management of these genera planted as SRWCs, and relevant certification guidelines. The review draws upon scientific evidence worldwide, focusing on implications for site productivity, invasiveness, biological diversity, and water use. The assessment, titled “Scientific Basis for Sustainable Management of Eucalyptus and Populus as Short-Rotation Woody Crops in the U.S.,” was written by Eric Vance, Craig Loehle, T. Bently Wigley, and Philip Weatherford and published in Forests. The abstract of the paper 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