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Climate change mitigation in Canada’s forest sector: a spatially explicit case study for two regions

Smyth, C. E., Smiley, B. P., Magnan, M., Birdsey, R., Dugan, A. J., Olguin, M., Mascorro, V. S., Kurz, W. A.
Carbon balance and management 2018 v.13 no.1 pp. 11
bioenergy, biomass, burning, case studies, climate change, electricity generation, forest industries, forest inventory, forest management, forests, fossil fuels, global carbon budget, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, half life, harvesting, heat, longevity, models, pollution control, transportation, wood, Canada
BACKGROUND: We determine the potential of forests and the forest sector to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by changes in management practices and wood use for two regions within Canada’s managed forest from 2018 to 2050. Our modeling frameworks include the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector, a framework for harvested wood products that estimates emissions based on product half-life decay times, and an account of marginal emission substitution benefits from the changes in use of wood products and bioenergy. Using a spatially explicit forest inventory with 16 ha pixels, we examine mitigation scenarios relating to forest management and wood use: increased harvesting efficiency; residue management for bioenergy; reduced harvest; reduced slashburning, and more longer-lived wood products. The primary reason for the spatially explicit approach at this coarse resolution was to estimate transportation distances associated with delivering harvest residues for heat and/or electricity production for local communities. RESULTS: Results demonstrated large differences among alternative scenarios, and from alternative assumptions about substitution benefits for fossil fuel-based energy and products which changed scenario rankings. Combining forest management activities with a wood-use scenario that generated more longer-lived products had the highest mitigation potential. CONCLUSIONS: The use of harvest residues to meet local energy demands in place of burning fossil fuels was found to be an effective scenario to reduce GHG emissions, along with scenarios that increased the utilization level for harvest, and increased the longevity of wood products. Substitution benefits from avoiding fossil fuels or emissions-intensive products were dependent on local circumstances for energy demand and fuel mix, and the assumed wood use for products. As projected future demand for biomass use in national GHG mitigation strategies could exceed sustainable biomass supply, analyses such as this can help identify biomass sources that achieve the greatest mitigation benefits.