Environment

Professor Lyubov A. Kurkalova is Leading Research to Understand the Economics of Forest Management Practices and Productivity

North Carolina is home to multiple varieties of fast-growing trees with vast potential for products ranging from wood pellets to packaging to feedstock for evolving bioenergy markets. But how can managers make better decisions to maximize the productivity of their forests and the economic impact of this sector?

lkurkalova_2014A North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University professor is part of a research team seeking answers to that question. Professor Lyubov A. Kurkalova from the N.C. A&T College of Business and Economics is the economics lead on a three-year joint research initiative between A&T and North Carolina State University’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources that was recently awarded $103,470 for the first year of its work.

The goal of the project is to perfect a forest productivity and economic model that supports a web-based interactive tool for forest managers, who can use the tool to make better decisions on managing their production. Additionally, a proposed regional-scale economic analysis is aimed at informing policy-makers and potential industrial users of wood feedstock.

“North Carolina has significant built-in advantages in this industry,” said Kurkalova. “Fast growing trees, like poplar, green ash, sycamore and loblolly pine can be grown productively throughout the state,” she said. “The point is helping managers make the best decisions regarding which of those varieties they should cultivate for their particular circumstances and needs.”

This is the latest addition to Kurkalova’s expanding research portfolio, which revolves around environmental and energy economics. She has three other current projects underway with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Southern Research Station. Her research has been published in a variety of economics and interdisciplinary journals, including Energy Economics, Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Biomass and Bioenergy, and Environmental Modeling and Software.

Kurkalova is part of a growing research enterprise at North Carolina A&T supported with more than $60 million in external funding in fiscal year 2016. A&T is the third-most productive public research university in the state, trailing only the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State in federal, state and private support.