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Woody Biomass Utilization - Introduction
|Forests in the United States contain a substantial amount of small-diameter, overstocked, and underutilized material.|
The catastrophic wildfires we are seeing in increasing numbers in the western United States are caused in large part by overcrowded forests. Not only do these overstocked stands increase the risk of fire, they are prone to insect, disease, and drought damage. Thinning these dense, overstocked stands of trees can help reduce the risks mentioned; however, the thinning process can be very costly and may exceed the value of the material removed. Using thinned material to create valuable products is one way to improve the economics of the situation and to promote thinning operations that improve forest health.
Since 1993, the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) has focused some of its research effort on characterizing small-diameter and thinning material, identifying potential uses, and providing technology that can help rural-based communities create successful businesses from the by-products of ecosystem management. FPL research projects are exploring the potential of the small-diameter roundwood as a structural material for uses such as bridges, boardwalks, trail structures, picnic shelters, storage sheds, and other rustic-type buildings. Other FPL research is finding other innovative ways to use underutilized woody biomass.