Canadian Forest Service Publications

Albedo effects of biomass production: a review. 2017. Bernier, P.Y.; Bright, R.M. Report to the IEA-Bioenergy Task 43 & Task 38. IEA Bioenergy, Paris, France.

Year: 2017

Available from: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 38025

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)


Surface albedo, the fraction of reflected to total incoming solar radiation at the surface, is a property that may be affected by activities related to the extraction or production of biomass. The amplitude of surface albedo changes, and the radiative forcing generated by such changes, may be important relative to other radiative forcing components linked to bioenergy production, with potential positive or negative effects on the net climate footprint of bioenergy. This report presents an overview of the drivers of albedo, reviews measured albedo changes linked to vegetation changes or to bioenergy production systems, and reports on studies that have calculated the relative contribution of change in albedo to the overall radiative forcing of bioenergy projects. The main conclusion is that albedo-driven radiative forcing can have a substantial positive or negative impact, and its determination must be carried out on a case-by-case basis. Further, the analysis must be carried out using an appropriate metric to properly represent the time dynamics of surface albedo in biomass systems.

Plain Language Summary

This report illustrates the important impacts of forest biomass production and harvesting activities on the albedo, which is the measure of the reflective capacity of a surface, such as a forest, bare soil or snow.

Variations in the albedo alter the amount of solar energy absorbed or reflected as a result of changes in the soil cover in relation to a reference status. These variations are influenced by forest management practices, which alter the characteristics of the soil’s surface, vegetation composition, and their dynamics over time at the local scale.

As our understanding of the albedo develops, we can now include this factor in assessments of climate change mitigation potential in the context of bioenergy production. However, local assessments must continue to be carried out on a case-by-case basis.

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