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Valerie Barber, University of Alaska Fairbanks, vabarber@alaska.edu (Presenter)
Glenn Juday, University of Alaska Fairbanks, gpjuday@alaska.edu

 

Energy costs in Alaska are high due to reliance on fossil fuels and isolation of rural communities. State and federal entities in Alaska are promoting renewable energy, primarily woody biomass for heat and power. Alaska has forest resources throughout the state of which very little is managed and logged. There is little infrastructure for a forest products industry so wood is in relatively low demand. Climate change, very much apparent in Alaska is affecting growth and survival of the local species through different avenues. With increasing fire frequency in the state, pressure is high to cut major firebreaks around communities. This combined with an increase of acreage burned from wildfires and trees killed from insect infestations leaves an abundance of available low-value woody biomass. Dendroclimatology studies in Boreal Alaska on local tree species casts uncertainty on the future regeneration of local forest stands under a warming, drying climate. Forest inventories in Alaska are not current or widespread which increases uncertainty. With the sustainability of forests in question, managers are wary of increasing dependence on woody biomass for heat and power without a management plan in place. Agroforestry and plantations of fast growing broadleaf species, such as local and hybrid poplar, offer possible solutions for revegetation and demonstration projects are planned for interior Alaska. We also plan to re-evaluate the outcome of older management treatments and experiments in terms of relative productivity and explore adaptation scenarios with respect to changing climate in order to determine what is sustainable and socially acceptable.