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A Systems Model for Short-Rotation Coppices: A Case Study of the Whitecourt, Alberta, Trial Site Open Access


Other title
system dynamics
economic assessment
woody crops
harvest and transport
short rotation coppices
plant growth
systems modelling
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Nguyen, Huy T
Supervisor and department
Davies, Evan (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Ulrich, Ania (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Davies, Evan (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Dyck, Miles (Renewable Resources)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Water Resources Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Short-rotation coppice (SRC) plantations, including willow or poplar, are intended to be both environmentally friendly, permitting disposal of treated, nutrient-rich, domestic wastewater and biosolids, and economically viable, providing a sustainable source of wood fibre for biofuel and biochar production. However, because SRC systems are complex and involve interactions between numerous factors – including climate, wastewater and biosolids characteristics, soil chemistry and physical characteristics, woody crop establishment and growth, bioenergy, environmental regulations, and economics – a method is required to identify and understand interactions and feedbacks between the various system components in order for decision makers to plan appropriately, maximize biomass end-uses, and optimize investments. This research shows the value of feedback-based systems modelling methods, which simulate system behaviour and elucidate cause-and-effect relationships, and represent SRC systems in a realistic, comprehensive way. The thesis describes the development of the “WISDOM” model, a new, interconnected, seven-sector, decision-support model for short-rotation coppice (SRC) systems that represents feedbacks between climate, soil, water resources, crop production, crop harvest, biomass transport, energy production, and project economics. In terms of model performance, WISDOM provided good simulation results. Most of the key SRC system components were simulated successfully based on eight years of Whitecourt historical data – for instance, the match between simulated and observed values was R2 = 0.98 for biomass production, R2= 0.92 for tree height, and R2 = 0.90 for soil electrical conductivity. WISDOM can be used to aid stakeholders and decision-makers in long-term planning for environmentally- and economically-sustainable SRC plantations in Alberta in particular, and more broadly in Canada and internationally. The model was used to identify how alternative decisions affect system behaviour through the use of “what-if” scenarios, with three climate scenarios run for Whitecourt SRC yield predictions and twenty seven yield-harvest-combined economic scenarios forecasted over a complete SRC life cycle of more than twenty years. These scenarios provide insights into the plantation and management of the Whitecourt site into future years. The thesis concludes with recommendations on improving WISDOM components to improve its accuracy or make the model more broadly applicable, and for incorporating new components to represent socio-economic feedbacks at larger scales.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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