The impacts of climate change are already being felt by the forest industry as winters become shorter and the operable time for winter blocks is reduced. For harvest operations, excessive rutting poses the greatest risk, and frequently forces operations to move to another block or shut down altogether.
Members of FPInnovations’ Fibre Supply group have been working to develop short-term operational solutions using existing machine fleets as a way of allowing companies to continue to operate under wet conditions without needing to make large investments in specialized equipment that would otherwise be necessary.
Solutions include a modified 3-in-1 bunching pattern that concentrates skidder or forwarder traffic to fewer trails, as well as rut rehabilitation techniques using an excavator. The added costs of employing these techniques have been synthesized into an easy-to-use decision support spreadsheet designed to help front-line supervisors quickly choose the lowest-cost solution given the block size, remaining harvest area, distance to the next block, transport costs, and existing rutting estimates.
“Early identification of problematic areas as well as accurate rutting estimates are critical in ensuring the legislated thresholds are not surpassed and in giving supervisors the greatest flexibility while finishing the block,” explains Matthew Thiel, researcher in the Fibre Supply group. “The use of a consumer-grade drone to surveil the block proved to be effective during these trials and may help supervisors in detecting and managing soft ground issues as climate change continues to impact operations.”
For more information about this project, please contact Matthew Thiel.