Harvesting Carbon from Eastern US Forests: Opportunities and Impacts of an Expanding Bioenergy Industry

TitleHarvesting Carbon from Eastern US Forests: Opportunities and Impacts of an Expanding Bioenergy Industry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsDavis, SC, Dietze, M, DeLucia, E, Field, C, Hamburg, SP, Loarie, S, Parton, W, Potts, M, Ramage, B, Wang, D, Youngs, H, Long, SP
Pagination370 - 397
Date Published2012/06/19/
Keywordsbiofuel, carbon dioxide emission, carbon sequestration, CHP, forest management, greenhouse gas reduction, logging, residue, sustainability, temperate forest, woody biomass

Eastern forests of the US are valued both as a carbon sink and a wood resource. The amount of biomass that can be harvested sustainably from this biome for bioenergy without compromising the carbon sink is uncertain. Using past literature and previously validated models, we assessed four scenarios of biomass harvest in the eastern US: partial harvests of mixed hardwood forests, pine plantation management, short-rotation woody cropping systems, and forest residue removal. We also estimated the amount and location of abandoned agricultural lands in the eastern US that could be used for biomass production. Greater carbon storage was estimated to result from partial harvests and residue removals than from plantation management and short-rotation cropping. If woody feedstocks were cultivated with a combination of intensive management on abandoned lands and partial harvests of standing forest, we estimate that roughly 176 Tg biomass y−1 (~330,000 GWh or ~16 billion gallons of ethanol) could be produced sustainably from the temperate forest biome of the eastern US. This biomass could offset up to ~63 Tg C y−1 that are emitted from fossil fuels used for heat and power generation while maintaining a terrestrial C sink of ~8 Tg C y−1.