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Katharine C.  Kelsey
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Biology
University of Alaska Anchorage
Carbon Balance of Forest Thinning and Bioenergy Production 

This interrupted case study introduces students to the concept of carbon storage and how land management decisions can affect this vital ecosystem service.  Forests play an important role in the carbon cycle because of their ability to uptake and store large amounts of carbon and their potential to release carbon to the atmosphere following forest disturbance or management. Students are asked to evaluate the carbon balance of a forest treatment in which harvested biomass is used for bioenergy electricity generation. Through readings and in-class discussions, students consider the effects of past and current management practices on western forests, predict future forest carbon storage under varying management scenarios, and finally evaluate the economic and ecological consequences of bioenergy electricity production in order to make a recommendation for future forest management in this region. Designed for an upper division undergraduate ecosystem management course, the case would also be appropriate for any upper division ecology course in which biosphere-atmosphere interactions, ecosystem management, or forest carbon storage is discussed.