Forest operations and woody biomass logistics to improve efficiency, value, and sustainability
This paper reviews the most recent work conducted by scientists and engineers of the Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the areas of forest operations and woody biomass logistics, with an emphasis on feedstock supply for emerging bioenergy, biofuels, and bioproducts applications. This work is presented in the context of previous research in this field by the agency and is measured against the goals and objectives provided by several important national-level initiatives, including the USDA Regional Biomass Research Centers. Research conducted over the past 5 years in cooperation with a diverse group of research partners is organized in four topic sections: innovative practices, innovative machines, sustainability, and integration. A wide range of studies in operations and logistics address advances in harvest and processing technology, transportation systems, scheduling and planning, feedstock quality, biomass conversion processes, and environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions.We also discuss potential future research to address persistent knowledge gaps, especially those in fire and fuel management. Overall, the research reviewed here aligns well with broad national goals of providing the USA with sustainable and efficient forest biomass management and production systems, specifically including: (1) improved harvest, collection, handling, and transportation systems for woody biomass; (2) cost and equipment information and options for field processing biomass to improve efficiency and mitigate impacts; and (3) forest biomass management systems and technologies to offset impacts and enhance environmental outcomes. However, as needs evolve, professionals in this field must strive to adapt research, development, and dissemination to address relevant future challenges and strengthen capabilities to solve critical problems in the forest sector.