Canadian Forest Service Publications
A systems approach to assess climate change mitigation options in landscapes of the United States forest sector. 2018. Dugan, A.J., Birdsey, R., Mascorro, V.S., Magnan, M., Smyth, C.E., Olguin, M., Kurz, W.A. Carbon Balance Manag. Sep 4;13(1):13.
Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 39354
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BACKGROUND: United States forests can contribute to national strategies for greenhouse gas reductions. The objective of this work was to evaluate forest sector climate change mitigation scenarios from 2018 to 2050 by applying a systems-based approach that accounts for net emissions across four interdependent components: (1) forest ecosystem, (2) land-use change, (3) harvested wood products, and (4) substitution benefits from using wood products and bioenergy. We assessed a range of land management and harvested wood product scenarios for two case studies in the U.S: coastal South Carolina and Northern Wisconsin. We integrated forest inventory and remotely-sensed disturbance data within a modelling framework consisting of a growth-and-yield driven ecosystem carbon model; a harvested wood products model that estimates emissions from commodity production, use and post-consumer treatment; and displacement factors to estimate avoided fossil fuel emissions. We estimated biophysical mitigation potential by comparing net emissions from land management and harvested wood products scenarios with a baseline ('business as usual') scenario. RESULTS: Baseline scenario results showed that the strength of the ecosystem carbon sink has been decreasing in the two sites due to age-related productivity declines and deforestation. Mitigation activities have the potential to lessen or delay the further reduction in the carbon sink. Results of the mitigation analysis indicated that scenarios reducing net forest area loss were most effective in South Carolina, while extending harvest rotations and increasing longer-lived wood products were most effective in Wisconsin. Scenarios aimed at increasing bioenergy use either increased or reduced net emissions within the 32-year analysis timeframe. CONCLUSIONS: It is critical to apply a systems approach to comprehensively assess net emissions from forest sector climate change mitigation scenarios. Although some scenarios produced a benefit by displacing emissions from fossil fuel energy or by substituting wood products for other materials, these benefits can be outweighed by increased carbon emissions in the forest or product systems. Maintaining forests as forests, extending rotations, and shifting commodities to longer-lived products had the strongest mitigation benefits over several decades. Carbon cycle impacts of bioenergy depend on timeframe, feedstocks, and alternative uses of biomass, and cannot be assumed carbon neutral.
Plain Language Summary
This research examined how forest management and wood use can mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the medium term (2018 to 2050) for two case study regions in the US. It was part of a tri-national study which examined forest sector mitigation options for Canada, the US and Mexico. American results were developed through computer modelling using the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3) and the Carbon Budget Modeling Framework for Harvested Wood Products (CBMF-HWP) and estimating substitution impacts for using wood products to displace fossil-based products and fossil fuels. The study assessed the mitigation benefits, relative to a baseline, of increasing using harvest residues for bioenergy, increasing the usable life of wood products, increasing salvage harvest after a hurricane, increasing forest productivity, and reducing deforestation. Forest ecosystem GHG emissions were based on Forest Inventory and Analysis database and harvest information from the USDA Forest service. Information on forest disturbances was compiled from Landsat satellite imagery-based disturbance maps. Maintaining forests as forests, extending rotations, and shifting commodities to longer-lived products had the strongest mitigation benefits over several decades. Carbon cycle impacts of bioenergy depend on timeframe, feedstocks, and alternative uses of biomass, and cannot be assumed carbon neutral.