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Crop Biotech Update

Forest Bioenergy Production in US West Coast Forests May Result in Higher CO2 Emissions

October 28, 2011
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Contrary to the assumption that biofuels from forest biomass are carbon-neutral or carbon-negative, an international team of scientists from Oregon State University (United States), University of Leipzig (Germany), Centre d'Etudes Ormes des Merisiers (France) report that biofuel production from US West Coast forests may actually increase carbon dioxide emissions.

Using forest inventory data (covering 80 forest types in 19 eco-regions in Oregon, Washington and California), the researchers showed that "fire prevention measures and large-scale bioenergy harvest in US West Coast forests lead to 2% to 14% (46 Teragrams to 405 Teragrams of carbon) higher emissions compared with current management practices over the next 20 years". (One Teragram equals 1 Megatonne).

According to the researchers, "If the sink in these ecoregions weakens below its current level by 30 grams to 60 grams carbon per square meter per year) owing to insect infestations, increased fire emissions or reduced primary production, management schemes including bioenergy production may succeed in jointly reducing fire risk and carbon emissions. They concluded that in order to establish how to decrease emissions, forest policy should consider factors which include (1) current forest carbon balance, (2) local forest conditions, and (3) ecosystem sustainability. The full paper is published in the journal, Nature Climate Change (URL above).