Carbon Balance of Forest Thinning and Bioenergy Production
Department of Biology
University of Alaska Anchorage
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.
- Recognize the effects of fire exclusion on ponderosa pine forest structure in the American southwest and explain the justification for silvicultural treatments in these forests.
- Predict future forest carbon storage under varying scenarios of forest treatment and wildfire.
- Combine different types of information to determine the carbon balance of forest treatments and subsequent bioenergy electricity production.
- Evaluate the ecological and economic consequences of forest treatment and energy production to make a recommendation to the Forest Service.
KeywordsEcosystem management; forest carbon; bioenergy; carbon emissions; carbon storage; carbon balance; forest management; forest treatment; Western US; climate change mitigation
Educational LevelUndergraduate upper division
Subject HeadingsEcology Environmental Science Forestry Natural Resource Management
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