GCB Bioenergy

Cover image for Vol. 7 Issue 4

Edited By: Steve Long

Impact Factor: 4.882

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2014: 1/81 (Agronomy); 11/88 (Energy & Fuels)

Online ISSN: 1757-1707

Associated Title(s): Global Change Biology

Impact assessment of integrated timber and bioenergy production

Impact assessment of integrated timber and bioenergy productionElevated concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels is contributing to climate change. Forests play a major role in reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. Plants capture CO2 during photosynthesis and store it in biomass and soil. Additionally, forest biomass harvested from logging residues can be used to replace fossil fuels for energy production.

Kilpeläinen and coauthors determine the best options for managing forests for the joint production of timber and biomass for energy production, and at the same time increasing carbon storages of managed forests. To do this, they developed a life cycle assessment tool that would allow them to calculate the environmental impacts, measured as fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, associated with all the stages of a product's life from seedling production in a nursery to pulp mill, sawmill, or power plant.

The authors used the life cycle assessment tool to calculate the environmental impact of a traditional timber production regime and an integrated timber and biomass energy (bioenergy) production regime under current and future climate conditions. The tool simulated Norway spruce trees growing in stands in southern and northern Finland.

Uptake of CO2 was higher for timber production than combined timber and bioenergy production. This is primarily due to carbon released from combustion of biomass.

A changing climate affected spruce growth differently in northern and southern Finland. In the north, carbon emissions were higher under the current climate than the future climate. Under climate change, the increase in carbon lost from enhanced decomposition of soil organic matter was offset by the increase in carbon uptake from enhanced tree growth. In southern Finland, carbon emissions were lower under the current climate than a changing climate. Under a changing climate, more frequent droughts reduced tree growth and enhanced decomposition, which resulted in increased carbon emissions.

The development of this tool gives new possibilities to evaluate the ecological sustainability of forest bioenergy and timber production in the context of climate change mitigation through carbon capture and storage.

Kilpeläinen, A., Alam, A., Strandman, H. and Kellomäki, S. (2011), Life cycle assessment tool for estimating net CO2 exchange of forest production. GCB Bioenergy, 3: 461–471. doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2011.01101.x

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