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Designing Skid-Trail Networks to Reduce Skidding Cost and Soil Disturbance for Ground-Based Timber Harvesting Operations

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Skid-trail locations directly influence the economics and environmental impacts of harvesting operations. Typically, field managers design skid-trail networks manually based on field observations of vegetation and terrain conditions. We designed a model to automatically design skid-trail networks to reduce skidding costs and soil disturbances. The model simulates tree-bunch locations, creates a feasible skid-trail network across the harvest unit, estimates skidding cost and soil recovery cost for each feasible skid-trail segment, and finds the network design that connects each tree bunch to landings while reducing skidding and soil recovery costs. The model was applied to a 24-ha hypothetical harvest unit to test its ability to design optimal networks under different scenarios representing conditions commonly found in timber harvesting operations (e.g., skidding pattern, uneven volume distribution, skidding obstacles, and different weights given to skidding and soil recovery costs). It was also applied to an actual 124-ha harvest unit to evaluate its ability to design skid-trail networks considering more realistic conditions with multiple design factors. The model successfully created optimized skid-trail networks for all scenarios considered, and results suggest that it provides a useful tool to help forest engineers and field managers design economically efficient and environmentally sound ground-based timber harvesting operations.

Keywords: forest operations planning; forest optimization; network programming; shortest path algorithm

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 8, 2016

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