• Open Access

Net atmospheric impacts of forest bioenergy production and utilization in Finnish boreal conditions

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Abstract

The net CO2 exchange of forests was investigated to study net atmospheric impact of forest bioenergy production (BP) and utilization in Finnish boreal conditions. Net CO2 exchange was simulated with a life cycle assessment tool over a 90-year period and over the whole Finland based on National Forest Inventory data. The difference in the net exchanges between the traditional timber production (TP) and BP regime was considered the net atmospheric impact of forest bioenergy utilization. According to the results, forests became net sources of CO2 after about 20 years of simulation, and the net exchange was higher in the BP regime than in the TP regime until the middle of the simulation period. From 2040 onwards, the net exchange started to decrease in both regimes and became higher in the TP regime, excluding the last decade of the simulation. The shift of forests to becoming a CO2 source reflected the decrease in CO2 sequestration due to the increasing share of recently harvested and seedling stands that are acting as sources of CO2, and an increase of emissions from degradation of wood products. When expressed in terms of radiative forcing, the net atmospheric impact was on average 19% less for bioenergy compared with that for coal energy over the whole simulation period. The results show the importance of time dependence when considering dynamic forest ecosystems in BP and climate change mitigation. Furthermore, the results emphasize the dualistic role and possibilities of forest management in controlling the build and release of carbon into and from the stocks and in controlling the rate of the build speed, i.e. growth. This information is needed in identifying the capability and possibilities of ecosystems to produce biomass for energy, alongside other products and ecosystem services (e.g. pulp wood and timber), and simultaneously to mitigate climate change.

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