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Scientists study the potential implications of expanding woody biomass harvesting to forest biodiversity?

Photo of Image 1: Spatial distribution of wood biomass supply through logging residues and whole-tree biomass harvests by county across the United States in 2017 used to assess effects of removal to biodiversity. Image 1: Spatial distribution of wood biomass supply through logging residues and whole-tree biomass harvests by county across the United States in 2017 used to assess effects of removal to biodiversity. Snapshot : Demand for wood biomass to help meet the nation’s renewable energy needs raises questions about the implications of removing small-diameter whole trees as well as logging residues (tops and limbs) from forests. The U.S. Department of Energy's 2016 Billion-Ton Report, Volume 1, identified a vast national potential of biomass resources that could be available for industrial uses in the future, but what are the potential environmental implications to our forests with an expanded forest biomass production program?

Principal Investigators(s) :
Donner, Deahn 
Research Location : United States
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1253

Summary

Understanding the effects of an expanded forest biomass production program requires specifics on how much is available, where is it located, and how much biomass can be produced and used most effectively. Determining where expanded biomass production may occur aids in evaluating environmental benefits and consequences spatially and, ultimately, evaluating the sustainability of expanded biomass production. A Forest Service scientist collaborated with Weyerhaeuser and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc., to evaluate the implications of expanding wood biomass harvesting for forest biodiversity using projected available forest feedstocks generated in the U.S. Department of Energy's 2016 Billion-Ton Report, Volume 1. Removing wood biomass is expected to affect biodiversity through the loss of dead and downed material associated with harvesting logging residues, and greater canopy cover and altered age distribution associated with biomass whole-tree harvesting. Research results show nearly half of projected harvests occurred in southern U.S. followed by north-central and northeast regions, and the primary feedstock producing biomass was logging residues. As expected, the forest type producing primary feedstocks varied across the country. Analysis showed that depending on their distribution and habitat requirements in relation to predicted location and type of biomass harvested, species that rely on wood biomass or early successional habitat could experience both negative and positive impacts. Spatial results can be integrated with local biodiversity assessments to help identify species vulnerable to increased woody biomass harvesting.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc., Southern Environmental Research

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