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An agent-based forest sector modeling approach to analyzing the economic effects of natural disturbances

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Title: An agent-based forest sector modeling approach to analyzing the economic effects of natural disturbances
Author: Schwab, Olaf Sebastian
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Forestry
Copyright Date: 2008
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2008-12-16
Subject Keywords Agent-based modeling; Forest sector modeling; Decision support tool; Mountain pine beetle; Industry structure; Salvage harvesting; British Columbia; Spruce weevil
Abstract: This dissertation describes the development of CAMBIUM, an agent-based forest sector model for large-scale strategic analysis. This model is designed as a decision support tool for assessing the effect that changes in forest product demand and resource inventories can have on the structure and economic viability of the forest sector. CAMBIUM complements existing forest sector models by modeling aggregate product supply as an emergent property of individual companies’ production decisions and stand-level ecological processes. Modeling the forest products sector as a group of interacting autonomous agents makes it possible to introduce production capacity dynamics and the potential for mill insolvencies as factors in modeling the effects of market and forest inventory based disturbances. This thesis contains four main manuscripts. In the first manuscript I develop and test a dispersal algorithm that projects aggregated forest inventory information onto a lattice grid. This method can be used to generate ecologically and statistically consistent datasets where high-quality spatial inventory data is otherwise unavailable. The second manuscript utilizes this dataset in developing a provincial-level resource dynamics model for assessing the timber supply effects of introducing weevil-resistant spruce. This model employs a stand-level approach to simulating weevil infestation and associated merchantable volume losses. Provincial-level impacts are determined by simulating harvest activities over a 350 year time horizon. In the third manuscript I shift the focus to interactions between forest companies. I analyze the effects of strategic decisions on sector structure by developing CAMBIUM as an agent-based model of competition and industry structure evolution. The forest sector is modeled as a group of autonomous, interacting agents that evolve and compete within the limitations posed by resource inventories and product demand. In the final manuscript I calibrate CAMBIUM to current conditions in the British Columbia forest sector. Industry agents compete for roundwood inputs, as well as for profits in finished product markets for pulp, panel products, and lumber. To test the relevance and utility of this model, CAMBIUM is used to quantify the cumulative impacts of a market downturn for forest products and mountain pine beetle induced timber supply fluctuations on the structure of the forest sector.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/2921

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