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Bioenergy production systems and biochar application in forests: potential for renewable energy, soil enhancement, and carbon sequestration

Posted date: October 20, 2011
Publication Year: 
2011
Authors: McElligott, Kristin; Page-Dumroese, Deborah S.; Coleman, Mark
Publication Series: 
Research Note (RN)
Source: Res. Note RMRS-RN-46. Fort Collins, CO; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 14 p.

Abstract

Bioenergy production from forest biomass offers a unique solution to reduce wildfire hazard fuel while producing a useful source of renewable energy. However, biomass removals raise concerns about reducing soil carbon and altering forest site productivity. Biochar additions have been suggested as a way to mitigate soil carbon loss and cycle nutrients back into forestry sites; yet, little is known about the effects of intentional biochar amendments to temperate forest soil in conjunction with biomass removals for bioenergy production. In this review, we evaluate the potential for mobile bioenergy systems and the environmental implications of biochar application in forests. Using forest biomass that accumulates annually during forest harvest operations, bioenergy can be produced on-site and the biochar that is generated can be redistributed to return nutrients and help improve water holding capacity of the site. Little is known about the short- and long-term impacts of biochar application in forest ecosystems. Some sites may benefit from biochar application, while others show no or negative responses. Field studies on soil and vegetation responses combined with laboratory studies will elucidate the best sites for biochar application and sustainable bioenergy production.

Citation

McElligott, Kristin; Page-Dumroese, Deborah; Coleman, Mark. 2011. Bioenergy production systems and biochar application in forests: potential for renewable energy, soil enhancement, and carbon sequestration. Res. Note RMRS-RN-46. Fort Collins, CO; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 14 p.