Research to improve farm restoration and agroforestry
FARMERS are being urged to have their say in an online survey to help improve outcomes in farm restoration and agroforestry.
The survey ‘Influence of Ecosystem Services on Farmer Decision-making in Agroforestry’ is being conducted by the University of Tasmania’s ARC Centre for Forest Value PhD Candidate Zara Marais, and Lecturer in Resource Economics Dr Dugald Tinch.
Zara said the survey takes 10-15 minutes and asks farmers to make hypothetical decisions about growing trees on farms.
“The results will identify which factors are most important to farmers when it comes to making decisions about growing trees, and whether those factors change depending on the type or the size of the farm,” Zara said.
“The study will also provide insight into how farmers value ecosystem services provided by agroforestry plantings. This information will enable us to better target extension efforts in farm restoration and agroforestry.”
Zara said the survey was part of her broader project which uses natural capital accounting concepts to build a business case for planting trees on farms.
“Natural capital accounting provides information on stocks and flows of natural resources and ecosystem services in physical or monetary terms. We’re using these concepts to assess the value of stands of trees and shrubs (e.g. shelterbelts), based on the services that they provide at the farm scale,” Zara said.
“Services provided by trees and shrubs may include shelter for crops or livestock, erosion control, carbon sequestration, improved amenity, wood products, and habitat for beneficial birds or insects. Trees and shrubs may also deliver ‘disservices’ (e.g. habitat for pests).”
As part of her PhD research, Zara has conducted field experiments in the Tasmanian Midlands to compare shelterbelts in terms of how much shelter, wood, habitat, and carbon sequestration they provide over time; and how they influence the presence of beneficial and pest insects.
The findings will be used to inform bio-economic models, and ultimately improve farm decision-making. To take part in the survey please click here. You can read more about Zara's survey via the ABC Rural website here.
15-year university journey for PhD graduate worth the wait
PhD Candidate Heesung Woo (front, centre), finished his PhD research in mechanisms within forest industry supply chains to optimise the value and utilisation of eucalypt forest residues for bioenergy and bio-based product markets.
IT’S been a long 15-year journey, but former ARC Centre for Forest Value student Heesung Woo has finished his university study by completing his PhD this year.
For the past four years, Heesung has investigated mechanisms within forest industry supply chains to optimise the value and utilisation of eucalypt forest residues for bioenergy and bio-based product markets. Heesung was required to serve in military service for two years in his home country Korea, before moving to Tasmania to study, and describes his PhD as “hardcore forest research”.
“I now have a broad perspective to manage various forest-related problems based on my ICT and forestry background,” he said.
“The important role of forest biomass is raised more and more in the renewable energy sector. Tasmania has lots of opportunities to use forest biomass as a renewable energy source, considering the socio-economic and environmental perspectives.”
Heesung said a research highlight was developing a FIELD (Forest Inventory Electronic Live Data) tool to use harvester head data to improve accuracy of estimating forest inventory analysis.
“This Multicriteria Analysis (MCA) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) approach can present the optimal location of future biomass energy plants in Tasmania and minimise transportation costs,” he said.
Heesung hopes to one day test this tool in the field to compare the actual forest residue amount versus estimation results from the FIELD tool. During this PhD research Heesung worked closely with various forestry industry stakeholders, including Private Forests Tasmania’s Resource Development Manager Dr Martin Moroni.
Dr Moroni said Heesung’s work helped develop a better understanding of bioenergy in Tasmania, which would use waste and residues from timber harvesting and processing.
“His work included identifying where to best locate a bioenergy facility of scale and the social and economic benefits of a bioenergy facility. Through this work I also increased my understanding of supply chains and co-authored some papers resulting from his work,” Dr Moroni said.
“The published papers help me develop an informed position on aspects of bioenergy and related supply chain matters and deliver a degree of credibility to arguments that can be supported by published peer review papers.”
Dr Moroni agreed students need industry support for their research.
“Students leverage ongoing activities, explore initiatives at greater detail than otherwise possible and facilitate collaborations among stakeholders. There is also an opportunity to interact with expertise that may not otherwise be available in Tasmania,” Dr Moroni said
“Heesung had international forestry supply chain expertise, and he brought those views to Tasmania.”
After completing his PhD, Heesung secured a role in South Korea at the Kyungpook National University. He hopes one day to return to Tasmania.
To view Heesung’s research click here. You can also view a recent publication by Heesung and Dr Moroni here.
Study vital piece in sustainable natural resources puzzle
ROSE Brinkhoff is passionate about finding better ways to use our natural resources more sustainably and her PhD research is helping her do that.
While her research is a small piece of a much larger puzzle, Rose believes it’s an important one as the ARC Centre for Forest Value PhD Candidate looks at the determinants of optimal leaf area in eucalypt plantations.
“We know that fertiliser makes trees grow faster, but we don’t know a lot about the mechanisms behind that response. Untangling these mechanisms will help in tailoring fertiliser regimes to specific sites or conditions, and therefore allow us to use fertiliser more efficiently and effectively,” Rose said.
“My project is a good mix of the things I like most about research. It aims to address some interesting theoretical questions, while also having important practical applications. It’s a nice mix of ecology and physiology, and it is also the perfect balance of field and lab-based work for me.”
The Hobart resident is into her third year of PhD study and said the highlight so far has been the fieldwork with almost 100 days completed in all kinds of weather.
“My thesis is all about trying to quantify the relative costs and benefits of leaves and understanding how the balance of these is changed by environmental factors. To do this, I’ve set up three large-scale field fertiliser experiments across a range of site conditions in Tasmania,” she said.
“I’m measuring growth, leaf area, photosynthetic capacity, foliar nutrients and plant water status and comparing these between treatments and sites. It’s great to know that I’ve created a system not only in which I can carry out my PhD project, but one that can be used for other research in the future.”
One interesting and unexpected outcome of her PhD is the development of a new method for taking the hemispherical canopy photos used to estimate leaf area.
“Normally, this requires carrying around a camera and a tripod, packing it away and setting it up and levelling it between each plot,” Rose said.
“We have discovered that by using a 360-degree camera with an ‘invisible selfie stick’, we can walk through the plots while taking photos and then select the relevant part of the photo later. This new method means each photo takes about five seconds rather than five minutes.
Industry collaboration for Rose has been important, providing vital insight into the industry and working alongside key partners including Forico and Reliance Forest Fibre.
“My research wouldn’t be possible without these industry partners allowing me to set up experiments in their coupes. Without their involvement I would never have been able to establish experiments at such a large scale. My experimental plots comprise more than 7 hectares in total, so to have access to that amount of space to work with is amazing,” Rose said.
Chief Technical Officer at Forico Andrew Jacobs said support of the ARC Centre for Forest Value and its students had led to some interesting findings and innovations in areas such as wood quality, genetics and supply chains.
“It has been really great to have Rose working on nutrition in plantation eucalypts. Rose has been able to investigate aspects of nutrition under the guidance of our production foresters that we could not have conducted internally,” Mr Jacobs said.
“We are keen to take the learnings from the study and use them in the business moving forward. The industry needs smart young people to support research and innovation. The sector has lost a lot of research capability over the last 20 years, so it’s important industry reinvests in R&D."
Rose will present at the Ecological Society of America conference in August virtually, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. For more information on Rose’s work, click here.
PhD Candidate Rose Brinkhoff, pictured with University of Tasmania Associate Professor Mark Hovenden, has been focussed on trying to quantify the relative costs and benefits of leaves and understanding how the balance of these is changed by environmental factors.
Impressive research publications highlight talent
THE Centre's research program is structured into three themes that span the forest products supply chain.
There are currently 16 PhD candidates, three postdocs and numerous industry, academic, and affiliated researchers participating in the projects being undertaken by the ARC Centre for Forest Value. The Centre's three research themes are:
- Theme 1: Sustainable forest production and certification.
- Theme 2: Products and manufacturing.
- Theme 3: Supply chain integration and information management.
Three highlight publications from these themes include:
The ARC Training Centre for Forest Value (CFV) produces industry-ready graduates and postdoctoral fellows with broad perspectives of the forest industry.
The CFV is funded by the Australian Research Council and industry partners.