Regional carbon dioxide implications of forest bioenergy production

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  • Mitigation strategies for reducing CO2 emissions include substitution of fossil fuel with bioenergy from forests, where carbon emitted is expected to be re-captured in the growth of new biomass to achieve zero net emissions, and forest thinning to reduce wildfire emissions. Here we use forest inventory data to show that fire prevention measures and large-scale bioenergy harvest in US West Coast forests lead to 2-14% (46-405 Tg C) higher emissions compared to current management practices over the next 20 years. We studied 80 forest types in 19 ecoregions, and found that the current carbon sink in 16 of these ecoregions is sufficiently strong that it cannot be matched or exceeded through substitution of fossil fuels by forest bioenergy. If the sink in these ecoregions weakens below its current level by 30-60 g C m-2 yr-1 due to insect infestations, increased fire emissions, or reduced primary production, management schemes including bioenergy production may succeed in jointly reducing fire risk and carbon emissions. In the remaining three ecoregions, immediate implementation of fire prevention and biofuel policies may yield net emission savings. Hence, forest policy should consider current forest carbon balance, local forest conditions and ecosystem sustainability in establishing how to decrease emissions.
  • This is the author's peer-reviewed final manuscript, as accepted by the publisher. The published article is copyrighted by Nature Publishing Group and can be found at:
  • Keywords: ecosystem sustainability, carbon dioxide emissions, forest bioenergy production, forest conditions, forest policy
  • Keywords: ecosystem sustainability, carbon dioxide emissions, forest bioenergy production, forest conditions, forest policy
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  • Hudiburg, Tara W., Beverly E. Law, Christian Wirth, and Sebastiaan Luyssaert. "Regional carbon dioxide implications of forest bioenergy production." Nature Climate Change 23 Oct. (2011). Web. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1264.
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  • This research was supported by the Office of Science (BER), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE, Grant no. DE-FG02-07ER64361), for the North American Carbon Program study, “Integrating Remote Sensing, Field Observations, and Models to Understand Disturbance and Climate Effects on the Carbon Balance of the West Coast U.S”. T.H. is funded by a DOE global change education program PhD fellowship (GREF). S.L. is funded by ERC Starting Grant 242564.
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