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Forest Service Scientists Assess Potential Impacts of Eucalyptus on Water Resources in the Southern U.S.

Photo of Eucalyptus stand in South Africa. Donald Owen, California Department of Forestry and Fire ProtectionEucalyptus stand in South Africa. Donald Owen, California Department of Forestry and Fire ProtectionSnapshot : At the request of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Center for Integrated Forest Science led interdisciplinary analyses to predict where freeze- tolerant Eucalyptus could be planted and assess the potential impacts on water resources. Novel econometric models predicted the potential for as many as 2.8 million acres of Eucalyptus plantations in the southern U.S. Hydrologic analyses suggested that this level of conversion would have negligible impacts on water resources at larger watershed scales; however, local impacts were possible depending upon the hydrological conditions of the planting site and surrounding area.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Vose, JamesWear, David N.
Research Location : Raleigh, NC
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 735

Summary

Development of Eucalyptus plantations has been limited in the United States mainly due to the species's sensitivity to freezing temperatures. Genetically engineered clones of a Eucalyptus hybrid that is freeze tolerant could expand the range of commercial plantations. Forest Service scientists at the Center for Integrated Forest Science conduct analyses to inform the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's development of an Environmental Impact Statement regarding freeze tolerant (FT) Eucalyptus. In the first report, "Projecting Potential Adoption of Genetically Engineered Freeze-Tolerant Eucalyptus Plantations," models predicted an expansion of up to 1.4 million acres of Eucalyptus plantations. The models extended the analyses to consider the current area of naturally regenerated pine results in as much as 2.8 million acres of Eucalyptus plantations. Actual adoption will likely depend on uncertain future markets for cellulose, especially for bioenergy feedstock. In the second report, "Potential Implications for Expansion of Freeze-Tolerant Eucalyptus Plantations on Water Resources in the Southern U.S.," models suggest that the stand-level implications of planting FT Eucalyptus on water resources could vary by location, the land cover type prior to Eucalyptus establishment, and the hydrological conditions of the planting site and surrounding area. At the scale of conversion indicated by an economic analysis, large-scale impacts on water resources would be negligible.