The long-term greenhouse gas emissions implications of wood biomass ('bioenergy') harvests are highly uncertain yet of great significance for climate change mitigation and renewable energy policies. Particularly uncertain are the net carbon (C) effects of multiple harvests staggered spatially and temporally across landscapes where bioenergy is only one of many products. We used field data to formulate bioenergy harvest scenarios, applied them to 362 sites from the Forest Inventory and Analysis database, and projected growth and harvests over 160 years using the Forest Vegetation Simulator. We compared the net cumulative C fluxes, relative to a non-bioenergy baseline, between scenarios when various proportions of the landscape are harvested for bioenergy: 0% (non-bioenergy); 25% (BIO25); 50% (BIO50); or 100% (BIO100), with three levels of intensification. We accounted for C stored in aboveground forest pools and wood products, direct and indirect emissions from wood products and bioenergy, and avoided direct and indirect emissions from fossil fuels. At the end of the simulation period, although 82% of stands were projected to maintain net positive C benefit, net flux remained negative (i.e., net emissions) compared to non-bioenergy harvests for the entire 160-year simulation period. BIO25, BIO50, and BIO100 scenarios resulted in average annual emissions of 2.47, 5.02, and 9.83 Mg C ha-1, respectively. Using bioenergy for heating decreased the emissions relative to electricity generation as did removing additional slash from thinnings between regeneration harvests. However, all bioenergy scenarios resulted in increased net emissions compared to the non-bioenergy harvests. Stands with high initial aboveground live biomass may have higher net emissions from bioenergy harvest. Silvicultural practices such as increasing rotation length and structural retention may result in lower C fluxes from bioenergy harvests. Finally, since passive management resulted in the greatest net C storage, we recommend designation of unharvested reserves to offset emissions from harvested stands.
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© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Mika AM, Keeton WS. Net carbon fluxes at stand and landscape scales from wood bioenergy harvests in the US Northeast. Gcb Bioenergy. 2015 May;7(3):438-54.