Interface urban forest management in an urbanizing landscape

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Although forests located near urban areas are a small fraction of the forest cover, a good understanding of the extent to which —wildland-urban interface (WUI) forest conversion affects local economies and environmental services can help policy-makers harmonize urban development and environmental preservation at this interface, with positive impact on the welfare of local communities. A growing part of the forest resource worldwide has come under urban influence, both directly (i.e., becoming incorporated into the interface or located at the interface with urban areas) and indirectly (as urban uses and values have come to dominate more remote forest areas). Yet forestry has been rather hesitant to recognize its urban mandate. Even if the decision to convert land at the WUI (agriculture, fruit, timber, or rural use) into an alternative use (residential and commercial development) is conditional on the relative magnitude and timing of the returns of alternative land uses, urban forestry is still firmly rooted in the same basic concepts of traditional forestry. This in turn neglects features characterizing this type of forestland, such as the urban influences from increasingly land-consumptive development patterns. Moreover, interface timber production-allocated land provides public goods that otherwise would be permanently lost if land were converted to an irreversible use. Any framework discussing WUI optimal rotation periods and conversion dates should then incorporate the urban dimension in the forester problem. It must reflect the factors that influence both urban and forestry uses and account for the fact that some types of land use conversion are irreversible.

The goal is to present a framework that serves as a first step in explaining the trends in the use and management of private land for timber production in an urbanizing environment. Our framework integrates different land uses to understand two questions: given that most of the WUI land use change is irreversible and forestry at this interface differs from classic forestry, how does urban forestry build upon and benefit from traditional forestry concepts and approaches? In particular, what are the implications for the Faustmann harvesting strategy when conversion to an irreversible land use occurs at some point in the future?

The article begins with a short background on the worldwide trend of forestland conversion at the WUI, focusing mostly on the case of developed countries. This provides a context for the theoretical framework used in the subsequent analysis of how urban factors affect regeneration and conversion dates. The article further reviews theoretical models of forest management practices that have considered either land sale following clear-cutting or a switch to a more profitable alternative land use without selling the land. A brief discussion on the studies with a generalization of the classic Faustmann formula for land expectation value is also included. For completeness, comparative statics results and a numerical illustration of the main findings from the private landowner framework are included.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science
EditorsHank Shugart, Kenneth Addison, Paolo D’Odorico, Boris Faybishenko, Jianping Huang, Chunglin Kwa
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9780199389414
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2020


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