From renewable energy to fire risk reduction: a synthesis of biomass harvesting and utilization case studies in US forests

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid

Abstract

The volatile costs of fossil fuels, concerns about the associated greenhouse gas emissions from these fuels, and the threat of catastrophic wildfires in western North America have resulted in increased interest and activity in the removal and use of woody biomass from forests. However, significant economic and logistical challenges lie between the forests and the consumers of woody biomass. In this study, we provide a current snapshot of how biomass is being removed from forests and used across the United States to demonstrate the wide variety of successful strategies, funding sources, harvesting operations, utilization outlets, and silvicultural prescriptions. Through an analysis of 45 case studies, we identified three themes that consistently frame each biomass removal and utilization operation: management objectives, ecology, and economics. The variety and combination of project objectives exemplified by the case studies means biomass removals are complex and difficult to categorize for analysis. However, the combination of objectives allows projects to take advantage of unique opportunities such as multiple funding sources and multiparty collaboration. The case studies also provide insight into the importance of ecological considerations in biomass removal both because of the opportunity for forest restoration and the risk of site degradation. The national view of the economic aspects of biomass removal provided by this wide variety of case studies includes price and cost ranges. This study is an important first step that helps define woody biomass removals which are becoming an essential part of forestry in the 21st century.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles