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Effects of Initial Age Structure of Managed Norway Spruce Forest Area on Net Climate Impact of Using Forest Biomass for Energy

Kilpeläinen, A., Strandman, H., Grönholm, T., Ikonen, V.-P., Torssonen, P., Kellomäki, S., Peltola, H.
BioEnergy research 2017 v.10 no.2 pp. 499-508
Picea abies, age structure, biomass, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, climate, climate change, coal, energy, felling, fertilizer application, forest ecosystems, forests, fossils, greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle assessment, models, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, Norway
We investigated how the initial age structure of a managed, middle boreal (62°N), Norway spruce-dominated (Picea abies L. Karst.) forest area affects the net climate impact of using forest biomass for energy. The model-based analysis used a gap-type forest ecosystem model linked to a life cycle assessment (LCA) tool. The net climate impact of energy biomass refers to the difference in annual net CO₂ exchange between the biosystem using forest biomass (logging residues from final felling) and the fossil (reference) system using coal. In the simulations over the 80-year period, the alternative initial age structures of the forest areas were (i) skewed to the right (dominated by young stands), (ii) normally distributed (dominated by middle-aged stands), (iii) skewed to the left (dominated by mature stands), and (iv) evenly distributed (same share of different age classes). The effects of management on net climate impacts were studied using current recommendations as a baseline with a fixed rotation period of 80 years. In alternative management scenarios, the volume of the growing stock was maintained 20% higher over the rotation compared to the baseline, and/or nitrogen fertilization was used to enhance carbon sequestration. According to the results, the initial age structure of the forest area affected largely the net climate impact of using energy biomass over time. An initially right-skewed age structure produced the highest climate benefits over the 80-year simulation period, in contrast to the left-skewed age structure. Furthermore, management that enhanced carbon sequestration increased the potential of energy biomass to replace coal, reducing CO₂ emissions and enhancing climate change mitigation.