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The Wood From The Trees - Issue Five - Decisions, decisions, decisions ...

Decision support tools or decision support systems (DSS) feature as deliverables in many of the CRC’s research projects.  We have organised a two-day CRC workshop from 6 to 7 August 2009, which will bring together scientists and industry partners with decision-making responsibilities to coordinate this work. We’ll be hearing from leading DSS practitioners in agriculture and forest conservation biology, and working together to consider how the knowledge we are gleaning in our CRC research can be better organised into usable tools and systems to help operational foresters make good management decisions

Chris Beadle and I recently spent a morning with Matt Wood (Research Officer—Plantation Silviculture, Forestry Tasmania) to discuss how Forestry Tasmania makes decisions about stand management for its 35 500 hectare eucalypt plantation estate, predominantly of shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens).

Forestry Tasmania has built on previous incarnations of the current Farm Forestry Toolbox (v.5, Private Forests Tasmania) to come up with a nicely integrated in-house online system that assists operational staff with a wide range of decisions. These decisions relate primarily to the timing and intensity of key value-adding operations such as fertiliser (primary and secondary), pruning and thinning, and the consequences of each decision in terms of growth and woodflow (stand and estate level), profit (output of high-value products) and risk (pests and disease, windthrow etc). See Figure 1.

Forestry Tasmania DSS screenshot

Figure 1: Screenshot of an output from Forestry Tasmania’s DSS: The effects of thinning (and high-pruning to 6.4 m) on log-grade output at clearfall at age 25 years

The land base of Forestry Tasmania’s plantation estate is largely settled, so selecting new land or predicting growth on greenfield plantation sites is not a high priority.  Their stand growth model for shining gum is continually updated, using the most recent measurements from inventory plots as these are entered into the inventory database.  This enables prediction of the yields of different merchantable logs grades, arising from a range of management scenarios. Based around market expectations, economically optimum thinning and final harvest ages can then be determined.

How can the current research by the CRC help refine Forestry Tasmania’s system?  Work underway in Program One will improve prediction of the impacts of pests and diseases on forest growth. Empirical modelling work in Project 2.2 will improve the prediction of growth response following thinning, by taking into account stand condition and thinning intensity. Accurate prediction of thinning response is important, because the returns from a commercial thinning and the growth response of the retained trees have a critical impact on profitability of sawlog regimes.

Moreover, wood quality studies (Project 2.3) will ensure that predicted outcomes associated with various management regimes can be moderated as our understanding of the effects of silvicultural management on wood quality improves.

Other research in Program Two is helping to define the markets for plantation-grown shining gum logs, and whether breeding, silviculture and changes in processing can improve marketability and product value.

Presentations from the Decision Support Systems Workshop held in August are available members via the Members website.  If you are unable to access these presentations and would like to, please address your query to Chris Harwood using the contact details below.


Chris Harwood
phone  03 6237 5664

Matt Wood
phone 03 6233 8237