U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Fire Prevention and Biofuel Policies May Not Reduce Carbon Emissions
Published: October 23, 2011
Posted: February 23, 2012

Mitigation strategies for reducing CO2 emissions include (1) substituting fossil fuels with bioenergy from forests on the assumption that emitted carbon is recaptured through new biomass growth to achieve zero net emissions, and (2) forest thinning to reduce emissions from wildfires. DOE-supported scientists from Oregon State University used forest inventory data to show that fire prevention measures and large-scale bioenergy harvest in U.S. West Coast forests will lead to 2%-14% (46-405 TgC) higher emissions over the next 20 years compared to current management practices. These results contradict some previous studies suggesting that biofuels from forests would be carbon neutral or even reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The investigators studied 80 forest types in 19 ecoregions and found that the current carbon sink in 16 of these ecoregions is sufficiently strong that it cannot be matched or exceeded through substitution of fossil fuels by forest bioenergy. The only exception was forests in high fire-risk zones that become weakened due to insect outbreaks or droughts, which impairs their growth and carbon sequestration and sets the stage for major fires. In the remaining three ecoregions, immediate implementation of fire prevention and biofuel policies may yield net emission savings. The study also concluded that forest policy should consider current forest carbon balance, local forest conditions, and ecosystem sustainability in establishing how to decrease emissions.

Reference: Hudiburg, T. W., B. E. Law, C. Wirth, and S. Luyssaert. 2011. "Regional Carbon Dioxide Implications of Forest Bioenergy Production," Nature Climate Change 1, 419-23. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1264. (Reference link)

Contact: Mike Kuperberg, SC-23.1, (301) 903-3281, Daniel Stover, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0289
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)