• Open Access

The outcome is in the assumptions: analyzing the effects on atmospheric CO2 levels of increased use of bioenergy from forest biomass


Correspondence: Bjart Holtsmark, tel. + 47 21 09 48 68, fax + 47 21 09 49 63, e-mail: bjart.holtsmark@ssb.no


Recently, several studies have quantified the effects on atmospheric CO2 concentration of an increased harvest level in forests. Although these studies agreed in their estimates of forest productivity, their conclusions were contradictory. This study tested the effect of four assumptions by which those papers differed. These assumptions regard (1) whether a single or a set of repeated harvests were considered, (2) at what stage in stand growth harvest takes place, (3) how the baseline is constructed, and (4) whether a carbon-cycle model is applied. A main finding was that current and future increase in the use of bioenergy should be studied considering a series of repeated harvests. Moreover, the time of harvest should be determined based on economical principles, thus taking place before stand growth culminates, which has implications for the design of the baseline scenario. When the most realistic assumptions are used and a carbon-cycle model is applied, an increased harvest level in forests leads to a permanent increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.