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Economics and human dimension of active management of forest-grassland ecotone in South-central USA under changing climate

Mishra, Bijesh (2022): Economics and human dimension of active management of forest-grassland ecotone in South-central USA under changing climate. Published in: ProQuest Dissertation Repository (1 February 2023)


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The south-central ecotone of the USA, characterized by a mix of forest, savanna, and grasslands, previously maintained by fire, is changing towards closed-canopy forest due to exclusion of fire. The management is complicated by the encroachment of species such as eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) and changing climate such as drought and more sporadic rainfall. Active management using prescribed fire and thinning can restore the ecosystem services, generate revenue, and motivate landowners to manage their land, but the cost is a major barrier. However, economic benefit from actively managed ecosystem under changing climate is not well known in this region. I estimated benefits of various ecosystems maintained using prescribed fire and thinning under changing climate scenarios. I further studied the willingness to pay (WTP), and intentions of landowners to actively manage their land for deer habitat management. I found that sawlog generally increased with the increase in rainfall, but pulpwood growth varied by management regime. The change in net future value (NFV) from timber was relatively stable in non-burned stands compared to frequently burned stands with increasing rainfall. The change in timber volume was greater in harvested and thinned stands. Stands burned in two- and three-year intervals the supported the greatest number of cattle and deer. The willingness to pay for deer hunting was higher in hunting sites with opportunities to observe more deer per visit. The WTP to observe 10 and 6 deers per visit instead of 1 deer per visit are about $11 and $9, respectively. The WTP for deer hunting was higher for deer habitats with food plots and deer sanctuaries. Forest canopy cover had non-significant impact on WTP for deer hunting, providing flexibility for landowners to change canopy and manage land for multiple objectives such as hunting, wildlife management, cattle grazing, and timber production. Landowners had positive intentions, social pressure, but the negative attitude toward actively managing their land. Financial burden, potential reasons for negative attitude, can be offset by revenue generated by managing land for multiple objectives.

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