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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Slash-pile burning in British Columbia : management challenges, emissions uncertainties, and alternative practices Nance, Eric


Slash-pile burning (SPB) of harvest residues continues to be a forestry management practice to reduce fuel loading and create space for planting. However, in British Columbia (BC), Canada, current estimates suggest the practice has contributed average annual greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 5 Mt CO₂e per year between 2002-2021. Furthermore, the practice prevents fiber from entering the bioeconomy, and produces substantial air pollution. This thesis aimed to answer the question: How can emissions from slash-pile burning be reduced in BC? This question was addressed using three distinct methodologies: (1) survey of BC forest professionals, (2) timber harvest modelling study evaluating the volume and location of residues generated during full-tree, clearcut harvesting in BC, and (3) an investigation of alternative practices which could feasibly replace SPB. The survey and investigation of alternatives helped to outline the current challenges of residue management in BC, including low market prices and high transportation and processing costs, challenging access to cutting areas with biomass trucks, and policy constraints impeding business-to-business opportunities for secondary utilization of residues. Next, timber cruising data were used to simulate residue production for 28 forest licenses across the province, using the FPInterface model. The analysis was carried out for the Coast, North, and South forest areas, and it was found that roughly 74 to 92% of merchantable harvest volume will be removed during harvest, while the remaining round wood will be left in the cutting area, along with the tops, branches, and foliage. It was also found that, of the total residue generated during harvesting, 69 to 80% will be delivered to the roadside for full-tree harvest systems. Finally, the investigation of alternatives identified 7 categories of alternative residue management practices which could feasibly replace SPB in the province. All the alternatives identified are expected to provide emissions reductions relative to SPB, while some also provide ecological benefits, or bioeconomy opportunities. This thesis demonstrates that current SPB emissions estimates are reliable, there are many alternative practices which can replace SPB in BC, and support will be needed to help promote a shift in management towards these more sustainable alternatives.

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