Mediterranean pines account for 14,000 ha in Tuscany alone, where they form large and homogeneous stands and represent an important resource for the forest economy. Among the harvesting systems applied to thinning operations, the most popular are whole-tree and cut-to-length harvestings. Both systems can be deployed with different levels of mechanization. The decision about which system might be the best option in a specific case possibly leads to conflicts due to different management goals, for instance when the shift from cut-to-length to whole-tree harvesting systems results in a decrease of costs and an increase of environmental burdens. Thus, an accurate determination of economic, environmental and social indicators is crucial to make balanced decisions. With that in mind, we carried out a sustainability impact assessment of typical forest-wood chain alternatives applied to young Mediterranean pine plantations and made a comparative evaluation by means of multi-criteria analyses. Trials were carried out in umbrella pine (Pinus pinea
L.) plantations in Tuscany. The analyzed cases considered four thinning operations and included the processes of harvesting, extraction and chipping. In the analysis, 12 indicators were considered (e.g., global warming potential, fatal accidents). Results of the investigation allow quantifying possible sustainability impacts and, thus, supporting management decisions.
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