Quantifying harvested wood products and forest management in carbon analyses

Forest carbon
Presentation at the New England Society of American Foresters meeting.

March 15, 2023

There remains great interest in understanding the role of forest management in storing and sequestering carbon. While researchers and land managers have a number of tools available to quantify the impacts of forest management on carbon stocks in growing forests, fewer tools are available that depict the carbon stored “off site” in the form of harvested wood products. These can include short-lived products (i.e., paper or pulp) or long-lived ones (i.e., utility poles). Not incorporating harvested wood product data in simulations of forest carbon can underestimate the total amount of carbon being stored, thus diminishing the benefits of active forest management. Fortunately tools like the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS), a growth and yield model widely used throughout New England, include output on harvested wood products. The harvested carbon report from FVS simulates carbon in harvested merchantable material and is proportioned into different pools, including products in use and in solid waste disposal sites. Carbon emissions output includes those from combustion with energy capture and from combustion or decay. The amount of carbon stored in a product pool within FVS changes over time as wood decays or transitions to another pool.

In these slides, an example case study using data from the long-term silvicultural experiment at the Penobscot Experimental Forest in central Maine will be shown. Results show that tools like FVS can be leveraged to better understand the contributions of harvested wood products in understanding forest management impacts and the longevity of forest carbon.