Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


How Does Climate Change Adaptation and Carbon Price Policy Affect Forested Landscapes? An Empirical Analysis of Forest Management under Climate Change on the U.S. West Coast Public Deposited

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  • Private forest landowners can adapt to climate change by altering their timing and intensity of harvests, by changing thinning or fertilizing activities, and by altering the tree species growing on their land. The well-being of humans is closely tied to the ecosystem services that forests provide as both market and non-market goods and services, including timber, recreation and tourism, carbon sequestration, wildlife species habitat, erosion control, and water purification. Adaptation by forest landowners to climate change can result in changes in a number of ecosystem service provisions. For example, a change in tree species composition and age class structure of forests could lead to degradation and loss of habitat for existing wildlife species; switching to different tree species could change the carbon sequestration rates; and market timber prices could adjust as a dominant tree species is replaced by other species and its market supply declines.There are many who advocate for a policy intervention in forestry in response to climate change, as forests mitigate greenhouse gas emissions as a major carbon sink. The climate mitigation policy of carbon pricing uses a forest’s capacity as a carbon sink to help internalize the negative externalities resulting from climate change. Since different tree species sequester different amounts of carbon at different rates, carbon prices alter incentives for private forest management, potentially resulting in either accelerating adaptation or pushing back. Despite the potential consequences of adaptation behaviors on ecosystem services, there has been little empirical analysis on how climate change and mitigation policy can affect adaptation behavior. Examining how mitigation policies affect adaptation behavior has important policy implications when the mitigation policy has the potential to create other externalities such as endangering existing wildlife species whose habitat may be altered by changes in forest management resulting from both climate change and mitigation policy.My dissertation conducts an empirical micro-econometric analysis of private landowners’ forest management decisions under climate change in California, Oregon, and Washington. The study area consists of diverse climate conditions and some of the most productive forests in the world. I address the following primary research questions: (1) How will the forested landscape evolve over time as humans adapt to a changing climate?; (2) How will climate mitigation policy affect adaptation behaviors?; (3) What is the impact of adaptation on existing wildlife species habitat?; and (4) What is the impact of adaptation on natural disturbances such as fire? Chapter 2 provides the conceptual framework for my approach with an emphasis on commonly used forest management practices, followed by an empirical econometric approach grounded in natural resource economic theory regarding forest management. In Chapter 3, I estimate a nested-logit econometric model for forest management practices while accounting for the simultaneous nature of harvest and replanting decisions, as well as the impact of natural disturbance occurrence on management decisions. In Chapter 4, the estimated discrete-choice econometric model is used as the basis for a dynamic simulation of the time-path of landscape change under both climate change and carbon price scenarios. In the western portion of the Pacific Northwest, I find that landowners shift out of their current dominant tree species choice of Douglas-fir to other tree species more suitable for the future climate, notably hardwood and ponderosa pine. For example, climate change discourages a harvested plot being replanted with Douglas-fir in western Oregon and Washington by 20-65 percentage points relative to a no-climate-change baseline, resulting in the landscape shifting away from the current Douglas-fir forests towards other forest types. My results also indicate that the discrete effect of climate change on the probability of that the stock of forest types changes is 6 percentage points for current Douglas-fir forests in western Oregon, which indicates that the climate path in the next 90 years will add 6 percentage points to the probability of the current Douglas-fir forests switching to different forest types. The discrete effect on the current stock of hardwood forestland is to reduce the probability of switching out of hardwoods by 13 percentage points.The results also imply that a carbon price policy would further accelerate such adaptation behaviors, where carbon pricing has a larger effect on the adaptation away from Douglas-fir than the effects of climate change. For example, the discrete effect of carbon pricing on the probability of switching the current Douglas-fir forest to other forest types is an additional 10 percentage points. The effect of a carbon price on landscape change could necessitate an additional policy intervention to counteract the impact on wildlife species from the landscape’s more rapidly changing habitat. Chapter 6 discusses the impact on wildlife species that have been listed as concerned species by state agencies, with a particular focus on seven “habitat specialists” who have narrow habitat preferences associated with particular forest types. I present changes in their habitat across ecoregions, as well as across the entire habitat range and by states. The direction and magnitude of change vary considerably across regions. The effect of climate change shows that some species gain from climate change (e.g., ringtail), while many others lose. The direction and degree of impact of climate change also vary considerably across regions. The carbon price intensifies the change by inducing additional habitat change through forest management. In Chapter 7, I focus on the effects of climate adaptation on natural disturbance with a distinction between the impact of climate change and the impact of the carbon price scheme. My finding illustrates the mechanism as to why natural disturbance increases in some regions while decreasing in others. I also discuss how the burn severity of wildfires can increase under climate change.My empirical approach combines fine-scale econometric and simulation methods that use recently observed forest management behaviors to estimate a model that serves as the basis for projecting changes in forest management. My framework is developed to reflect forest landowners’ decision-making as observed in recent years. The econometric estimation accounts for the simultaneous nature of various forest management choices and different channels with which climate affects the forest landscape both directly through changes in growing conditions and indirectly through deliberate modifications of forests. The simulation framework treats natural disturbance events as endogenous as landowners’ harvest and replanting decisions affect disturbance outcomes, and the possibility of natural disturbance affects management. The simulation tracks forest attributes such as stand volume and incremental growth, depending on the landowners’ decisions as to the timing and intensity of harvest, as well as replanting choice.The simulated growth of the forest stock is a key determinant that affects the landowner’s decision as the simulation progresses through time. Another novel feature of the simulation is that it allows me to model different policy scenarios because management decisions are explicit functions of forest rents. This allows me to differentiate landscape outcomes into separate components, such as the impact of climate change and the impact from carbon price policy. Private forestland today is formed by deliberate landowners’ decisions in addition to natural processes that affect tree species. Management decisions are affected by site conditions, climate, market conditions, and policy factors. My simulation approach contributes by incorporating interactions between these intertwining factors in a manner that enhances understanding about the impact of climate change on forested landscapes. By providing the time paths of landscape change with a focus on the policy of carbon pricing (Chapter 5), wildlife species conservation (Chapter 6), or natural disturbance occurrence (Chapter 7), my dissertation will offer foundational information to policy makers and natural resource managers about the state of forest landscape change under climate change and climate mitigation policy.In a broad sense, this dissertation uses empirically-driven models to highlight the interplay between climate change, landowner adaptation, carbon prices, natural disturbance, and the spatially heterogeneous biophysical climate conditions in the study area. Although previous studies have examined each component separately, the role of adaptation behavior as the intermediate link that connects climate change and landscape change needs more attention in the literature. The methodology developed in this dissertation could also apply to other economic analyses of policy outcomes at the intersection of land use, land-use change, ecosystem services, climate change, and human well-being to help us better understand the feedback between human behavior, the environment, and long-term sustainability of natural resources. This dissertation research contributes by improving our understanding of the consequences of climate change and climate policies on adaptation behavior in a manner that provides a foundation for improved policy design that balances the needs of people and environmental values.
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