SACAD: John Heinrichs Scholarly and Creative Activity Days


Empirical Faculty/Staff


The Cross-Timbers is a forested region that stretches from southern Kansas to central Oklahoma and into Texas. As an essential transitional ecotone between the eastern forest and Great Plains grassland biomes, this region is crucial for maintaining biological diversity. Much of this land is not actively managed for the critical ecosystem services that benefit people living in the region. The Cross-Timbers face threats from natural and anthropogenic factors, including climate variability. The lack of proper forest management (prescribed fires and thinning’s) has resulted in a reduction of wildlife habitats and water availability, and an increased risk of wildfires surrounding human development. These losses in ecosystem services are concerning given the high population pressure, with over 17 million people projected to be directly dependent on these services by 2040. Therefore, analyzing the economic capacity of the region to efficiently use and provide natural resources is critical for improving economic wealth. Efficient forest management practices can result in increased forest productivity and profitability, leading to the development of markets for other non-timber benefits, such as carbon sequestration, hunting, biodiversity, water production, and recreational activities. These practices can position the Cross-Timbers forests as a feasible commodity for emerging natural resource markets. To assess the economic efficiency of the region's forests, we applied stochastic frontier analysis, which measures profit efficiency. Using data from the USDA Forest Inventory and Analysis program at the forest plot level between 2004-2019, we examined the impacts of forest management practices, natural disturbances, and climatic variables on profit efficiency. Our results indicate that the Cross-Timbers forests are economically inefficient in the provision of ecosystem services. Damage caused by abiotic factors reduces profit efficiency by 3.4%, while damage caused by biological factors increases profit efficiency by 23%. The productivity of the site also increases profit efficiency by 17%. Overall, forests in this region generate negative profits when providing ecosystem services. Kansas forests generate higher and more stable profits over time than those in Oklahoma and Texas, and managing softwoods shows to be a more economically attractive alternative than managing oaks, which show the largest variability in profits across the three states.



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