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Keywords:

  • bioenergy;
  • calculation tool;
  • carbon balance;
  • decomposition;
  • ecosystem;
  • life cycle;
  • sustainability

Abstract

The study describes an integrated impact assessment tool for the net carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange in forest production. The components of the net carbon exchange include the uptake of carbon into biomass, the decomposition of litter and humus, emissions from forest management operations and carbon released from the combustion of biomass and degradation of wood-based products. The tool enables the allocation of the total carbon emissions to the timber and energy biomass and to the energy produced on the basis of biomass. In example computations, ecosystem model simulations were utilized as an input to the tool. We present results for traditional timber production (pulpwood and saw logs) and integrated timber and bioenergy production (logging residues, stumps and roots) for Norway spruce, in boreal conditions in Finland, with two climate scenarios over one rotation period. The results showed that the magnitude of management related emissions on net carbon exchange was smaller when compared with the total ecosystem fluxes; decomposition being the largest emission contributor. In addition, the effects of management and climate were higher on the decomposition of new humus compared with old humus. The results also showed that probable increased biomass growth, obtained under the changing climate (CC), could not compensate for decomposition and biomass combustion related carbon loss in southern Finland. In our examples, the emissions allocated for the energy from biomass in southern Finland were 172 and 188 kg CO2 MW h−1 in the current climate and in a CC, respectively, and 199 and 157 kg CO2 MW h−1 in northern Finland. This study concludes that the tool is suitable for estimating the net carbon exchange of forest production. The tool also enables the allocation of direct and indirect carbon emissions, related to forest production over its life cycle, in different environmental conditions and for alternative time periods and land uses. Simulations of forest management regimes together with the CC give new insights into ecologically sustainable forest bioenergy and timber production, as well as climate change mitigation options in boreal forests.