Measuring harvest residue accumulations at New Zealand’s steepland log-making sites

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Campbell Harvey


Plantation forestry, slash, harvesting operations, biomass


Background: When harvesting plantation forests of Pinus radiata (D.Don) in New Zealand, large residue piles commonly accumulate on or adjacent to processing sites. While the merchantable volume that is transported to market is carefully measured, little is known of the quantity of the piled, residual material. A working knowledge of residues is becoming more important as it is not only a potentially merchantable product for the bioenergy market, but when stored in perpetuity it can present a risk of self-ignition, and specifically on steep slopes, it presents a mobilisation risk if not stored correctly.

Methods: The area, bulk volume and depth of residue piles at 16 recently harvested steepland sites were measured from a wide geographic spread across New Zealand. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle imagery was used to build georeferenced photogrammetric models of residue piles (94 per cent of the studied volume). Pile area was determined from interpreting boundaries from orthophotos and volumes determined by interpolating the obscured terrain surfaces on duplicate photogrammetric models. The remaining 6 per cent of pile volume was measured with handheld GPS tracking of the perimeters and on-site estimation of average pile depth.

Results: For a mean harvest area of 18.9 ha, there was a mean of 2.4 piles per harvest site, 2600 m3 bulk volume and 2900 m2 of area covered. For every hectare harvested, a bulk volume of 170 m3 is piled at the landing, or alternatively, 0.23 m3 of bulk pile volume per tonne harvested. The manual terrain interpolation methodology was tested against collecting georeferenced pre-harvest terrain surfaces, yielding an average difference of 19% across two sites and six residue piles.

Conclusions: This research demonstrates the ability to investigate the bulk volume and site coverage of landing residue piles with equipment and software tools available to today’s forester. Mean values for pile area and volume are presented to reflect the current state of knowledge and can be a reference point for future initiatives.

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