harvesting & utilization
The Burning Question: Does Forest Bioenergy
Reduce Carbon Emissions? A Review of
Common Misconceptions about Forest
Michael T. Ter-Mikaelian, Stephen J. Colombo, and Jiaxin Chen
Critical errors exist in some methodologies applied to evaluate the effects of using forest biomass for bioenergy
on atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. The most common error is failing to consider the fate of forest carbon
stocks in the absence of demand for bioenergy. Without this demand, forests will either continue to grow or will
be harvested for other wood products. Our goal is to illustrate why correct accounting requires that the difference
in stored forest carbon between harvest and no-harvest scenarios be accounted for when forest biomass is used
for bioenergy. Among the ﬂawed methodologies evaluated in this review, we address the rationale for accounting
for the fate of forest carbon in the absence of demand for bioenergy for forests harvested on a sustained yield
basis. We also discuss why the same accounting principles apply to individual stands and forest landscapes.
Keywords: bioenergy, no-harvest baseline, reference point baseline, carbon sequestration parity, carbon
debt repayment, dividend-then-debt, stand versus landscape, plantations
Interest in industrial-scale bioenergy
production using forest biomass is part
of a larger movement to reduce climate
change by using renewable energy in place of
fossil fuels. However, if climate change mit-
igation is indeed a driver for using forest bio-
energy, then this energy source must be as-
sessed for its effects on the greenhouse gas
(GHG) concentration in the atmosphere.
Misconceptions and errors in methodolo-
gies continue to affect this topic, both in the
scientiﬁc and “gray” literature (e.g., maga-
zines, reports, and opinion letters), despite
having been addressed in prominent publi-
cations (e.g., Searchinger et al. 2009, Haberl
et al. 2012). A common misconception is
that forest bioenergy is immediately carbon
neutral, with no net GHG emissions as long
as the postharvest forest regrows to its pre-
harvest carbon level. From a forest manag-
er’s perspective, this logic can be appealing
because it appears to ﬁt a sustained yield par-
adigm. But, as we shall show, this paradigm
fails to account for other aspects of bioen-
ergy use needed for proper assessment of its
effect on GHG emissions.
The purpose of this review is to present
the theory and principles for correctly assess-
ing the GHG effects of forest bioenergy. We
discuss common errors that appear in the
forest bioenergy literature and explain why,
in the absence of forest management to in-
crease forest carbon before bioenergy har-
vesting, the use of forest bioenergy often in-
creases atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO
at least temporarily.
Principles of Forest Bioenergy
The primary consideration in GHG ac-
counting for forest bioenergy is to accurately
determine the fate of forest biomass in the
absence of demand for its use to produce
bioenergy. This theme will be repeated
throughout this article, because failure to
correctly address this consideration is the
Received February 4, 2014; accepted October 23, 2014; published online November 27, 2014.
Afﬁliations: Michael T. Ter-Mikaelian (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ontario Forest Research Institute, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada. Stephen J. Colombo
(email@example.com), Ontario Forest Research Institute. Jiaxin Chen (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ontario Forest Research Institute.
Acknowledgments: We thank Lisa Buse (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) for editing the earlier version of this article. We also thank the editor-in-chief, associate
editor, and four anonymous reviewers, whose valuable comments helped us improve the article.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For
commercial reuse, please contact the Journal of Forestry at email@example.com.
Journal of Forestry • January 2015 57
J. For. 113(1):57–68
Copyright © 2015 The Author(s)
cause of most errors in forest bioenergy ac-
When tree biomass is burned for energy
production, sequestered carbon is released to
the atmosphere, mainly as CO
sources of forest biomass for biofuel produc-
tion include standing live trees, harvest resi-
due, biomass recovered during salvage oper-
ations, thinnings and residue from thinning
operations, and mill processing residue (e.g.,
sawdust and wood chips); here and through-
out the text, biofuel and bioenergy refer to
fuel produced from live or dead biomass and
to energy derived from burning of biofuel,
respectively. Forest carbon is contained in
live trees, understory vegetation, and in
aboveground (standing dead trees, down
woody debris, and forest ﬂoor) and below-
ground dead organic matter (mineral soil
and dead roots). The processes determining
changes in carbon pools include growth and
mortality of live trees, decomposition of
dead organic matter, and its combustion if
burned. Tree growth and mortality are the
main driving forces determining changes in
carbon pools. Live trees transfer carbon to
dead organic matter pools through self-
pruning and mortality; in turn, dead organic
matter pools release carbon to the atmo-
sphere through decomposition. In temper-
ate and boreal forests, the largest amount of
carbon in a forest is typically contained in
live trees and mineral soil, followed by forest
ﬂoor, with other pools normally accounting
for less than 15% of total forest carbon (Pan
et al. 2011).
Given the large amounts of woody bio-
mass that stands accumulate, it is intuitive
that carbon accrues as they mature (Figure
1). After a stand-replacing disturbance,
stand-level forest carbon stocks usually de-
crease, because carbon losses from decom-
posing dead organic matter are temporarily
not compensated for by carbon sequestered
by live trees that are still small. As trees grow,
the pattern of net carbon accumulation is
sigmoidal, characterized by initially rapid
increases that slow as a stand reaches matu-
rity (Figure 1). The slowdown in stand net
carbon accumulation at maturity results
from the death of individual trees with on-
going growth distributed among the re-
maining live trees.
Figure 2A shows the accumulation of
carbon in live trees in the absence of harvest.
Harvesting a stand for bioenergy removes
most live tree carbon, leaving unutilized bio-
mass on site, which in traditional harvesting
includes stumps, branches and tops, and
roots. In temperate and boreal forests, recov-
ery of live tree carbon stocks takes decades
because of slow stand regrowth after harvest
(Figure 2B). Forest carbon stocks following
harvest for bioenergy constitute a forest bio-
energy scenario (black line in Figure 2B). For-
est carbon in the absence of demand for bio-
energy represents a forest baseline scenario
(red line in Figure 2A and D); in some liter-
ature reports on forest bioenergy, the forest
baseline scenario is referred to as either
“business-as-usual,” “counterfactual,” or
Forest bioenergy production involves
the use of fossil fuels, resulting in GHG
emissions that are estimated using life cycle
analysis (LCA). An LCA accounts for emis-
sions associated with all phases of bioenergy
production and use (the so-called “cradle-
to-grave” approach): silvicultural activities,
use of logging equipment, transportation of
harvested biomass to a biofuel processing fa-
cility, conversion of biomass into biofuel,
transportation to the energy plant, and non-
products of combustion (e.g., Zhang et
al. 2010). This is the GHG “cost” of pro-
ducing and using forest bioenergy. The LCA
of forest bioenergy does not include CO
GHG emissions from biofuel combustion,
because these emissions are accounted for
when the effects of bioenergy demand on
carbon in forest stocks are evaluated
When forest bioenergy displaces energy
from a fossil fuel, it eliminates GHG emis-
sions from producing and burning the fossil
fuel (the reference fossil fuel scenario). The
LCA for a fossil fuel includes all GHG emis-
sions from obtaining and processing the
fuel, but, unlike bioenergy, the fossil fuel
LCA also includes all GHG emissions from
combustion (Figure 2C). The difference in
LCA emissions between forest bioenergy
and a fossil fuel constitutes the GHG beneﬁt
of displacing this fossil fuel with forest bio-
energy (Figure 2C and D).
Management and Policy Implications
A growing market for energy produced from forest biomass has arisen because of the potential to mitigate
climate change by replacing fossil fuel energy. However, managers who want to access this market should
be aware that the beneﬁts of forest bioenergy depend on evaluation of forest management options
against a baseline scenario considering what happens to carbon stocks if biomass is not harvested for
energy. Among the more favorable options are the use of residue from ongoing harvest operations for
traditional wood products (lumber and pulp) and application of intensive silviculture to regeneration of
harvested stands. Establishment of new bioenergy-designated plantations on abandoned/degraded lands
requires more time for forest biomass to become available for harvest but has the advantage of a low
carbon stock value baseline. The least favorable options include harvest of standing live trees, both in
addition to and in lieu of ongoing harvest operations for traditional wood products. Policies for bioenergy
use also need to recognize that accounting for emission beneﬁts when fossil fuels are replaced requires
accounting for forest carbon (either in forest or in traditional wood products) that would have continued
to exist if fossil fuels were not replaced by bioenergy.
Figure 1. Typical change in forest carbon stocks after stand harvest (modiﬁed from Ter-
Mikaelian et al. 2014a). Dark and light gray areas represent carbon stocks in live biomass
and dead organic matter (DOM), respectively.
58 Journal of Forestry • January 2015
Thus, accounting for the GHG emis-
sion reduction potential of forest bioenergy
must include the following:
A. Forest carbon following biomass harvest
for energy production (the forest bioen-
B. Forest carbon in the absence of demand
for bioenergy (the forest baseline sce-
C. Life cycle GHG emissions (upstream
fossil fuel emissions) from producing
forest bioenergy (excluding GHG com-
bustion emissions); and
D. Life cycle GHG emissions (including
those from combustion) for the fossil
fuel displaced by forest biomass (the ref-
erence fossil fuel scenario).
Components A and B are required to assess
emissions to the atmosphere or lost po-
sequestration resulting from ex-
tracting biomass from the forest to meet the
demand for bioenergy, relative to that with-
out bioenergy demand (i.e., no harvest).
Component C (LCA of bioenergy produc-
tion) includes GHG emissions from pro-
ducing the biofuel and its use in place of a
fossil fuel; it includes non-CO
from biomass combustion but not CO
emissions, which are accounted for in com-
ponents A and B. Finally, component D
(LCA of the reference fossil fuel) is required
to assess the GHG emission beneﬁts of dis-
placing fossil fuel use with forest bioenergy.
Component A should include losses of
forest carbon stocks due to the construction
of access roads to harvest sites. Similarly, up-
stream emissions for fossil fuel-based energy
(component D) may require accounting for
changes in forest carbon stocks if extraction
of fossil fuels is associated with forestland
cover changes due to mining and road con-
struction. While such losses of forested area
in North America may be small at the re-
gional and national scales (e.g., Sleeter et al.
2012, Natural Resources Canada 2013),
their local effect on forest carbon stocks can
be signiﬁcant (e.g., Campbell et al. 2012,
Drohan et al. 2012).
It should be noted that this review fo-
cuses primarily on solid biofuels used for
combustion for heat and electricity genera-
tion. Although second-generation biofuels
(e.g., bioethanol for vehicular use, and bio-
gas) made from wood are currently not com-
mercial energy sources (Naik et al. 2010,
Bonin and Lal 2012), early research suggests
that wood has a potential to become the
Figure 2. Effect of harvest for bioenergy used to replace coal on forest carbon stock changes
and total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (stand level, from Ter-Mikaelian et al. 2014b).
A. Accumulation of carbon in an unharvested forest stand. B. Carbon in the stand regen-
erating after harvest. C. Harvested biomass is used to produce wood pellets; life cycle GHG
emissions from obtaining and producing wood pellets are lower than life cycle and
combustion emissions of coal, resulting in a GHG beneﬁt of using wood pellets to replace
coal. D. Carbon sequestration parity is achieved when the sum of carbon in the regener-
ating stand and the GHG beneﬁts of using wood pellets to replace coal reaches the amount
of carbon in the stand if it had remained unharvested; carbon debt repayment is achieved
when the sum of carbon in the regenerating stand and GHG beneﬁts of using wood pellets
to replace coal reaches the preharvest amount of carbon in the stand.
Journal of Forestry • January 2015 59
main feedstock for production of liquid and
gaseous biofuels (Hedegaard et al. 2008,
Havlik et al. 2011). However, the principles
for assessing the GHG effects of liquid and
gaseous biofuels, in particular the methodol-
ogy to account for changes in forest carbon
stocks are the same as those described above.
The difference between components A
and B constitutes the change in forest carbon
stocks resulting from biomass harvest for
bioenergy; the difference between compo-
nents C and D indicates the GHG beneﬁt of
replacing a reference fossil fuel with forest
bioenergy (Figure 2C). The estimated total
GHG emissions caused by demand for bio-
energy to replace fossil fuel are given by
Total GHG emissions
⫽Change in forest carbon stocks
⫹GHG beneﬁt of replacing fossil
fuel with forest bioenergy (1)
For a detailed mathematical form of Equa-
tion 1, see McKechnie et al. (2011). This
numerical approach is used for an individual
stand. The same approach is used for a forest
landscape in which the annual biomass har-
vest is used to produce energy by integrating
Equation 1 over time, starting from the ﬁrst
year of biomass collection.
The LCA of bioenergy and fossil fuel-
based energy production usually includes
emissions of CO
and two other GHGs:
) and nitrous oxide (N
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change [IPCC] 2006). Non-CO
emissions are converted into CO
lents based on their global warming poten-
tial (GWP) (IPCC 2007). Despite growing
criticism (e.g., Shine 2009, Fuglestvedt et al.
2010), GWP factors remain the standard
approach for assessing the effects of GHGs
on climate change (IPCC 2007). The
amount of CH
O (in units of mass)
released during combustion of biofuels and
fossil fuels is several orders of magnitude
lower than that of CO
(IPCC 2006). Re-
lease of these GHGs may also result from
nitrogen fertilizer application (N
sions) and organic matter decomposition in
O emissions) (Cherubini
et al. 2009).
Accounting for changes in forest carbon
stocks relative to the baseline scenario is par-
amount for proper assessment of bioenergy
GHG emissions: without demand for bio-
energy, harvesting either does not occur and
the forest continues growing and sequester-
ing additional carbon or it is harvested for
traditional wood products (lumber and
pulpwood). This is also true when bioenergy
replaces fossil fuel energy: replacement of
fossil fuels means harvest for bioenergy,
whereas no replacement of fossil fuels means
no harvest for bioenergy. This link results in
an inextricable connection between the ref-
erence fossil fuel and forest baseline scenar-
ios: accounting for GHG beneﬁts when
fossil fuels are replaced requires account-
ing for forest carbon losses (either in forest
or in traditional wood products) that
would not have occurred if use of fossil
At the onset of biomass harvesting for
bioenergy, the total GHG emissions in
Equation 1 are usually negative because the
reductions in forest carbon outweigh the
GHG beneﬁts of displacing fossil fuel with
forest bioenergy. Over time, however, net
GHG emissions in the forest bioenergy sce-
nario become smaller as harvested stands re-
generate and sequester carbon (Figure 2D).
The point at which the change in forest car-
bon (the difference between forest carbon in
the bioenergy and baseline scenarios) equals
the accumulated GHG beneﬁt of using for-
est bioenergy in place of fossil fuel is called
carbon sequestration parity (Mitchell et al.
2012). Consequently, the time from begin-
ning biomass harvest to carbon sequestra-
tion parity is called time to carbon sequestra-
tion parity. Only after passing the time to
carbon sequestration parity does forest bio-
energy reduce atmospheric GHG compared
with the reference fossil fuel scenario.
Time to carbon sequestration parity is
also referred to as the “carbon offset parity
point” (e.g., Jonker et al. 2014, p. 371),
“break-even period” (e.g., Ter-Mikaelian et
al. 2011, p. 644), or “time to carbon neutral-
ity” (Domke et al. 2012, p. 146). We prefer
the term carbon sequestration parity rather
than carbon neutrality because the latter has
been deﬁned in a variety of ways (National
Council for Air and Stream Improvement
Time to carbon sequestration parity de-
pends on factors such as the source of forest
biomass (e.g., standing live trees versus har-
vest residue), growth of regenerating stands
after harvest, and emissions from the refer-
ence fossil fuel. The peer-reviewed literature
contains many studies with estimates of time
to carbon sequestration parity for forest bio-
energy replacing coal (e.g., McKechnie et al.
2011, Ter-Mikaelian et al. 2011, Holtsmark
2012, Repo et al. 2012, Jonker et al. 2014,
Lamers et al. 2014), natural gas (Domke et
al. 2012), oil (Repo et al. 2012), and auto-
motive gasoline (Hudiburg et al. 2011).
These studies consistently show that har-
vesting live trees to produce bioenergy ini-
tially increases GHG emissions, which may
take decades to centuries to offset. However,
it has also been shown that intensive forest
management of areas harvested for bioen-
ergy may substantially reduce time to carbon
sequestration parity (e.g., Jonker et al. 2014,
Ter-Mikaelian et al. 2014b).
Figure 3 presents carbon stock changes
and GHG emissions for the scenario of an-
nual demand for bioenergy being met by
harvesting standing live trees on a landscape
scale to displace coal-ﬁred power generation
(from McKechnie et al. 2011). The study
Figure 3. Changes in forest landscape carbon stocks (dotted line), cumulative total GHG
emissions (solid line), and GHG beneﬁts (dashed line) from displacing coal with bioenergy
generated from harvest of standing live trees (modiﬁed from McKechnie et al. 2011).
Positive values correspond to emissions, whereas negative values show removals (seques-
tration) of carbon from the atmosphere.
60 Journal of Forestry • January 2015
area covered a total of 52,494 km
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region (On-
tario, Canada); the supply of biomass came
from clearcut harvesting of low-intensity
managed stands composed of a mix of hard-
wood (sugar maple, yellow birch, and red
oak) and softwood (jack pine, black spruce,
and balsam ﬁr) species. Emissions from re-
duced forest carbon stocks initially outweigh
GHG beneﬁts, resulting in positive GHG
emissions overall (solid line above zero in
Figure 3, indicating increased atmospheric
). The trend is reversed by continued
accumulation of GHG beneﬁts from fossil
fuel displacement and plateauing of land-
scape losses in forest carbon, although car-
bon sequestration parity (and net atmo-
spheric reduction of GHG) is not reached
until 38 years after harvesting begins (the
time at which the solid line crosses below the
zero line), beyond which total GHG emis-
sions are negative (solid line below zero in
Figure 3), indicating net removal of CO
from the atmosphere.
The approach we describe is based on
counting carbon ﬂuxes between the bio-
sphere and atmosphere, referred to as a mass
balance or carbon balance approach (Sathre
and Gustavsson 2011). For approaches that
enhance the mass balance approach by ac-
counting for the timing of GHG emissions
and radiative forcing, the reader is referred
to Sathre and Gustavsson (2011), Cherubini
et al. (2011), Repo et al. (2012), and Agos-
tini et al. (2013).
Studies accounting for the GHG effects
of forest bioenergy are characterized by spa-
tial and temporal boundaries, type of LCA,
and forest baseline and reference fossil fuel
scenarios (Helin et al. 2013). This review
pertains spatially to studies of forest land-
scapes managed for bioenergy production.
We focus primarily on accounting for the
carbon effects of harvesting standing live
trees for bioenergy, because this biomass
source has the greatest potential to produce
large, long-lasting effects on the atmospheric
carbon concentration. Nevertheless, the
same basic premises for determining the at-
mospheric effects of bioenergy apply to
other sources of biomass and are also dis-
The spatial boundary used in bioenergy
GHG accounting is interrelated with the is-
sue of land-use change (LUC), which can be
either direct or indirect (Berndes et al. 2010,
Bird et al. 2011). Direct LUC involves
changes on the land where bioenergy feed-
stock production occurs, such as a change
from farmland to bioenergy plantation. In-
direct LUC refers to changes in land use that
take place elsewhere as a consequence of har-
vesting for bioenergy. An example of indi-
rect LUC is conversion in another country
of natural forest to farmland in response to
the above direct LUC, where farmland in
the study area was converted to a bioenergy
plantation. Here, we focus on forest land-
scapes managed for bioenergy production;
indirect LUC associated with forest bioen-
ergy production is discussed in a section of
this review devoted to that topic.
Bioenergy LCAs can be attributional or
consequential (Brander et al. 2008, Lippke
et al. 2011, Helin et al. 2013). An attribu-
tional LCA provides information about the
direct effects of processes used for a given
product (e.g., production, consumption,
and disposal) but does not consider indirect
effects arising from changes in the output of
a product (Brander et al. 2008). Studies in-
cluded in this review use a consequential
LCA approach, because they assess the con-
sequences of changes in the level of output of
a product, including effects both inside and
outside the life cycle of the product (Brander
et al. 2008). Some reports (e.g., NCASI
2013) erroneously suggest that the conse-
quential LCA approach is appropriate only
for large-scale evaluations of forest carbon
policies. In reality, all bioenergy studies re-
viewed here, regardless of their scale and ob-
jective, use a consequential LCA approach,
at least partially. Indeed, it is most common
to include reference fossil fuel scenarios to
demonstrate the GHG beneﬁts of using for-
est bioenergy. This inclusion automatically
places such studies in the category of a con-
sequential LCA approach, because fossil fuel
displacement occurs as a consequence of for-
est bioenergy use.
This review considers three potential
forest baseline scenarios: the no-harvest base-
line, constituting the natural evolution of
the forest in the absence of harvest for bio-
energy; the traditional wood products base-
line, in which forest in the absence of harvest
for bioenergy is harvested for traditional
wood products (lumber and pulpwood); and
the reference point baseline, which will be in-
troduced later in this review. Of the three
baselines, the no-harvest baseline appears to
be at the core of many misconceptions dis-
cussed in this review. This baseline is also
referred to as an “anticipated future base-
line” (e.g., AEBIOM 2013, p. 5), a “biomass
opportunity cost baseline” (Johnson and
Tschudi 2012, p. 12), and a “natural relax-
ation baseline” (Helin et al. 2013, p. 477).
We prefer the term no-harvest baseline be-
cause it intuitively suggests what happens to
the forest in the absence of harvest for bio-
energy. Other baselines considered in the lit-
erature, such as the comparative baseline
(US Environmental Protection Agency
2011) and the marginal fossil fuel baseline
(Johnson and Tschudi 2012), combine for-
est and reference fossil fuel baselines to esti-
mate net atmospheric balance.
As noted by Helin et al. (2013), there
are no scientiﬁc criteria governing what the
time frame for assessing GHG effects of for-
est bioenergy must be, because it depends on
the aims of the assessment. Typically, studies
cover at least one silvicultural rotation, with
the time horizon ranging from several de-
cades to hundreds of years. Unlike tradi-
tional LCA studies, in which results are pre-
sented as one estimate covering the entire
time frame, studies on the GHG effects of
forest bioenergy often provide a temporal
proﬁle of GHG emissions (Helin et al.
2013). It is worth noting, however, that
short- and long-term effects of bioenergy
emissions are likely to be different (Sedjo
2011). Miner et al. (2014) correctly point
out that use of short time frames for assess-
ing the GHG effects of bioenergy is incon-
sistent with application of GWP factors es-
timated over a 100-year period (GWP-100).
Using a ﬁxed time frame of 100 years is ac-
ceptable as long as it is clearly understood
that such estimates of GHG effects will be
realized 100 years after the beginning of bio-
energy production. However, using only a
100-year time frame would obscure time to
carbon sequestration parity, which is an im-
portant indicator of how long it takes forest
bioenergy to start yielding climate mitiga-
tion beneﬁts. In addition, the GWP factor
O is reasonably constant over the ﬁrst
100 years (e.g., GWP-20 and GWP-100 are
equal to 289 and 298, respectively) (IPCC
2007). The GWP factor for CH
over shorter periods would be higher than
that for 100 years (e.g., GWP-20 and GWP-
100 are 72 and 25, respectively) (IPCC
2007). However, the numerical error in es-
timating time to carbon sequestration parity
introduced by applying GWP-100 to CH
small because of the relatively low amounts
produced during both bioenergy and fossil
fuel energy production (e.g., Zhang et al.
2010; also see the sensitivity analysis in Ter-
Mikaelian et al. 2014b). Next, we examine
Journal of Forestry • January 2015 61
common errors in forest bioenergy carbon
accounting using live tree harvest for bioen-
ergy, summarized in Table 1.
Common Errors in Accounting
for Carbon When Using Forest
Renewable Equals Carbon Neutral
One of the earliest misconceptions
about the effects of forest bioenergy is the
erroneous conclusion that forest bioenergy is
carbon neutral because forests harvested for
bioenergy eventually grow back, reabsorbing
carbon emitted during energy combustion.
Although the ﬂaw in this assumption has
been identiﬁed repeatedly (e.g., Marland
2010, Agostini et al. 2013), some govern-
ment documents, forest industry reports,
and websites claim that forest bioenergy is
carbon neutral because forests regrow. One
such statement among many found on the
worldwide web is as follows:
The carbon dioxide (CO
) emitted on
combustion of biomass is taken up by new
plant growth, resulting in zero net emis-
sions of CO
—bioenergy is considered to
be carbon neutral (Sustainable Energy Au-
thority of Ireland)
Statements such as this one disregard the
time factor for forests to achieve the same
forest carbon level relative to the no-bioen-
ergy demand scenario. Although the state-
ment is generally correct in that the forest
carbon deﬁcit resulting from biomass har-
vest for energy might be eventually offset by
carbon sequestration in regenerating forests,
it is made implicitly incorrect by not ac-
knowledging that decades to centuries are
needed to erase this deﬁcit. In the meantime,
elevated levels of CO
in the atmosphere
have numerous potential direct (indepen-
dent of climate change) and indirect
(through changes to climate) biological con-
sequences (Ziska 2008).
Sustained Yield Equals Carbon
An assumption that bioenergy harvest-
ing in forests managed on a sustained yield
(also called sustainable yield) basis does not
create a carbon deﬁcit is one of the most
common errors in forest bioenergy account-
ing. This argument is often presented as a
“stand versus landscape” approach, imply-
ing that the accounting principles presented
in the previous section of this review are
valid for an individual stand but do not ap-
ply to forest landscapes managed for sus-
tained yield. The stand versus landscape ap-
proach has been discussed in both the peer-
reviewed (e.g., Lamers and Junginger 2013,
Jonker et al. 2014) and non-peer-reviewed
(e.g., Strauss 2011, 2013, Ray 2012,
AEBIOM 2013) literature. The common
argument is that because biomass removal
from a fraction of the area in a sustained
yield landscape is compensated for by
growth in the remaining forest, harvesting
causes no net loss of biomass, which leads to
an incorrect claim that there is no carbon
deﬁcit from bioenergy harvest in a sustained
Although sustained yield harvesting is a
valid approach in traditional forestry for
providing a steady ﬂow of wood, the claim
that it is carbon neutral can only be made by
ignoring the principles of carbon mass bal-
ance accounting (for examples of incorrect
accounting, see Strauss and Schmidt 2012,
AEBIOM 2013). To repeat these principles,
to claim an emissions reduction from using
forest biomass to produce energy in place of
a fossil fuel, two scenarios must be accepted:
one where fossil fuels are used and forests are
not harvested for bioenergy; and the other
where forests are harvested with the biomass
used for energy generation. Stating that sus-
tained yield management is carbon neutral is
incorrect because it fails to account for the
case involving no harvest for bioenergy in
the reference fossil fuel scenario.
Table 1. Main types of errors in approaches used to assess the carbon effects of forest bioenergy.
Category Rationale for approach Errors in approach
Renewable equals carbon neutral Forest bioenergy is carbon neutral because harvested forest will grow
back and compensate for carbon losses incurred during harvest
Disregards the length of time required for the forest to grow back
and effects of elevated atmospheric carbon concentration
during this period
Sustained yield equals carbon
Carbon losses from harvesting a fraction of a sustainably managed
landscape are compensated for by tree growth in the remaining
landscape, removing the need to account for forest carbon stock
Fails to account for changes in forest carbon stocks in the absence
of harvest for bioenergy (no-harvest baseline scenario)
Commits a methodological error of using only “one-half” of the
reference fossil fuel scenario
Direct diversion from traditional
In the absence of demand for bioenergy, the forest would be
harvested for traditional wood products, removing the need to
account for forest carbon stock changes
Fails to account for lost carbon storage in traditional wood
products and substitution of these products with more carbon
emission-costly materials (traditional wood products baseline)
Dividend-then-debt Harvest releases carbon previously sequestered from the atmosphere,
therefore beginning the carbon accounting framework when the
forest stand starts to grow “eliminates” the carbon deﬁcit created
by stand harvest (usually proposed in conjunction with sustained
yield approach described above)
Disregards the fact that each stand is preceded by another stand
and thus ignores carbon released by previous harvest, while
crediting the current sequestration
Also involves the errors outlined for the sustained yield approach
Plantations for bioenergy Forest carbon stock changes need not be accounted for when
plantations are established purposely for harvest for bioenergy
Currently associated with a largely hypothetical case in the
United States; few plantations were established on nonforested
land for bioenergy; also a partial case of the dividend-then-
debt approach (see above)
Abandoned plantations carry no
Forest carbon stock changes need not be accounted for when
plantations established for traditional wood products are
abandoned because of diminishing market demand for such
products and would likely be deforested
Fails to consider the appropriate baseline scenarios that include
either the no-harvest baseline scenario that could offer a better
carbon emission mitigation option than harvest for bioenergy,
or the deforestation scenario that includes a single harvest for
traditional wood products/bioenergy and carbon stocks in
Carbon debt repayment
(reference point baseline)
Changes in forest carbon stocks after harvest for bioenergy are
compared with carbon losses at the time of harvest (often
proposed in conjunction with sustained yield approach described
Fails to account for changes in forest carbon stocks in the absence
of demand for bioenergy (no-harvest baseline scenario)
Involves a methodological error of using only “one-half” of the
reference fossil fuel scenario
62 Journal of Forestry • January 2015
Furthermore, in a regulated forest, har-
vested biomass is maximized on a sustained
yield basis when stands are harvested as they
reach the maximum mean annual growth
rate, which occurs before they attain maxi-
mum yield, i.e., if left unharvested the stand
would gain more biomass and consequently
increase live tree carbon stocks for a period
of time (Cooper 1983). A stand may con-
tinue to accumulate carbon stocks even past
the point of maximum ﬁber yield, because
carbon from dead trees is transferred to dead
organic matter pools, which, depending on
climate, can have slow decomposition rates
(Kurz et al. 2009). Therefore, increased har-
vest applied to an existing regulated (i.e.,
sustained yield) forest landscape results in a
loss of potential carbon sequestration. This
may also be the case in old-growth land-
scapes (Luyssaert et al. 2008), which may
continue to increase total carbon stocks, al-
beit slowly, in the absence of harvesting.
Thus, in a regulated forest landscape, any
harvest (and harvest for bioenergy in partic-
ular) would in all instances result in in-
creased atmospheric CO
for a period of
time due to lost future carbon sequestration.
Such increases in atmospheric CO
be ignored simply because the landscape is
being harvested on a sustained yield basis.
In summary, it is an error to conclude
that bioenergy from a sustained yield forest
is automatically carbon neutral, because, on
the one hand, it accepts carbon emissions
reductions associated with reduced fossil
fuel use, but then fails to acknowledge the
“other half” of the reference fossil fuel sce-
nario; i.e., if fossil fuels are used, then forests
are not harvested for bioenergy.
Diversion from Traditional Wood
An argument can be made that in the
sustained yield approach the no-harvest
baseline does not need to be considered if, in
the absence of demand for bioenergy, forests
would be harvested for traditional wood
products (e.g., lumber and pulp). This argu-
ment may not be relevant, however, because
bioenergy is one of the lowest value uses for
forest biomass and market forces would be
unlikely to result in bioenergy harvest in lieu
of harvest for traditional wood products
(Werner et al. 2010, AEBIOM 2013). Fur-
thermore, even if the choice was made to
harvest for bioenergy, this would shift the
harvest for traditional wood products else-
where (see the section on Indirect LUC),
because many studies predict continued
growth in demand for traditional wood
products both at the national and global
scales (Ince et al. 2011, Daigneault et al.
2012, Nepal et al. 2012, Latta et al. 2013).
If these issues were addressed and a le-
gitimate case was made that forest biomass
was diverted from harvest for traditional
wood products to bioenergy, then the tradi-
tional wood products scenario is the correct
forest baseline (Agostini et al. 2013). This
would include accounting for the large and
long-lasting stock of carbon that is retained
in some traditional wood products (Chen et
al. 2008, 2013). Retention of carbon in
wood products is characterized by product
“half-life”: the time it takes half of a type of
wood product to be removed from service.
Estimates of wood product half-life range
from 67 to 100 years for construction lum-
ber in the United States and from 1 to 6
years for paper (Skog and Nicholson 2000).
After wood product use ends, some carbon
may be emitted to the atmosphere through
decomposition or burning (with or without
producing energy), or wood products may
be recycled or disposed of in landﬁlls. In
landﬁlls, a fraction of the carbon slowly re-
leases to the atmosphere through decompo-
sition, and the rest remains indeﬁnitely due
to its resistance to decomposition (Micales
and Skog 1997). The traditional wood prod-
ucts baseline for building materials and
other solidwood products should also in-
clude the displacement value from using
wood compared with using more CO
sion-intensive materials (Richter 1998,
Gustavsson et al. 2006), so that accounting
for wood used for bioenergy in place of use
in traditional wood products must include
LCA emissions associated with substitution
of wood by nonwood materials (Matthews
et al. 2012).
Proponents of the dividend-then-debt
approach to forest carbon accounting argue
that studies on the effects of forest bioenergy
are incorrect if they use the moment of har-
vest as the starting point for carbon cycle
analysis (e.g., Strauss 2011, Ray 2012). As
stated by Strauss (2013, p. 14),
all of the studies that show that wood-to-
energy adds to the carbon stock of the at-
mosphere assume a carbon debt is created
that has to be repaid by new growth over
30–80 years (or more in some studies)
The dividend-then-debt approach is based
on the idea that harvest does not create a loss
of forest carbon because it merely returns
that was previously absorbed by the
trees to the atmosphere. To quote, “carbon
deﬁcit is only real if you ignore the fact that
the trees gobbled up carbon before they were
harvested” (Ray 2012).
However, the dividend-then-debt ap-
proach ignores the fact that, in most cases,
new stands replace previously harvested
stands. Those stands were in turn preceded
by other stands, and so on. Thus, moving
the starting point of carbon accounting
backwards in time to when carbon stocks in
a given piece of land were low takes credit for
the latest cycle of carbon accumulation but
ignores the fact that over time, on average,
forests contain substantial amounts of car-
bon. The point in question in dividend-
then-debt comes down to the original natu-
ral state of the land, which, for most current
forestland, was forest. In that case, it is in-
correct to use dividend-then-debt account-
Plantations Used for Bioenergy Carry
No Carbon Debt
Some studies conclude that forest bio-
energy obtained from plantations that are
already in a sustained yield state carries no
carbon debt because the plantations were
speciﬁcally established to be harvested for
bioenergy, and, therefore, all the biomass in
such forests can be considered to have been
grown for the purpose of burning (e.g.,
AEBIOM 2013, Jonker et al. 2014). On this
basis, it is argued that since carbon in such
forests was sequestered for the purpose of
burning, without a bioenergy market they
would never have existed in the ﬁrst place.
Sedjo (2011) calls this a forward-looking ap-
if trees are planted in anticipation of their
future use for biofuels, then the carbon re-
leased on the burning of the wood was pre-
viously sequestered in the earlier biological
growth process (Sedjo 2011, p. 4)
We contend that this is an acceptable inter-
pretation, but only as long as such planta-
tions were established on deforested land
speciﬁcally to be harvested for bioenergy.
However, we are unaware of large existing
areas of plantations in the United States es-
tablished speciﬁcally for bioenergy (short-
rotation bioenergy plantations are not un-
common in Europe). For these reasons, the
concept is largely hypothetical, and it is a
mistake to apply this premise to plantations
in general. Furthermore, plantations are
usually established on land that historically
held natural forest, which either was con-
Journal of Forestry • January 2015 63
verted to plantation forest or was deforested
and converted to another land use before the
plantation forest was established. In such
cases, bioenergy plantations would be sub-
ject to the criticisms made of the dividend-
then-debt approach if they replace planta-
tions for traditional wood products.
In conclusion, existing plantations used
for bioenergy cannot be considered exempt
from the need to account for carbon using
the mass balance approach described in this
review, although it may be the case in future
for bioenergy plantations established on
Abandoned Plantations Carry No
Several studies (e.g., Lamers and
Junginger 2013, Jonker et al. 2014) discuss
plantations established for traditional wood
products but “abandoned” due to diminish-
ing ﬁber demand (referring primarily to the
southeastern United States). They suggest
that protection (no harvest) of such planta-
tions is an unlikely scenario, and more real-
istic alternatives are conversion to agricul-
ture or urban development. Lamers and
Junginger (2013) argue that these planta-
tions should therefore be considered a “free”
source of bioenergy, since deforestation
would be the baseline in the fossil fuel sce-
nario, whereas Jonker et al. (2014) propose
using the carbon debt repayment approach
discussed later in this review. Here we note
that such an approach is in error because it
ignores the fate of forest carbon in the base-
line scenario where there is no harvest for
Although production of certain tradi-
tional wood products (e.g., pulp and paper)
has indeed been declining since 2000 (Hu-
jala et al. 2013), the likelihood of there being
large numbers of abandoned plantations
contradicts national and global projections
of increasing demand for traditional wood
products (Ince et al. 2011, Daigneault et al.
2012, Nepal et al. 2012, Latta et al. 2013).
If, however, there are plantations abandoned
due to regional deviations from global trends
for which the no-harvest baseline is an unre-
alistic scenario, then for such plantations the
appropriate baseline for forest bioenergy sce-
nario is deforestation followed by LUC. Be-
cause it is highly unlikely that the act of de-
forestation results in disposal of standing live
trees as waste, the deforestation baseline
should include a single harvest of standing
live trees and their utilization for either tra-
ditional wood products or bioenergy, with
carbon stocks in deforested areas determined
by the new land use.
To conclude, the correct baseline sce-
narios for abandoned plantations are either
the no-harvest scenario or, where this is
deemed unrealistic, a deforestation scenario
that accounts for the fate of forest biomass
carbon due to deforestation and carbon
stocks in deforested land.
Use of the Carbon Debt Repayment
Approach to Carbon Accounting
The concept of carbon debt repayment
(Mitchell et al. 2012, Jonker et al. 2014)
calls for calculation of the forest carbon def-
icit relative to the amount of forest carbon at
time of harvest. Unlike carbon sequestration
parity, carbon debt repayment, referred to as
“atmospheric carbon parity” by Agostini et
al. (2013, p. 33), assumes that a forest car-
bon deﬁcit created by harvest is completely
repaid once the combined balance of carbon
stocks in the postharvest forest and LCA
beneﬁts from substituting for fossil fuel
equals carbon stocks in the preharvest forest
Recent defense of the carbon debt re-
payment approach was made in a report
published by AEBIOM (2013). In its dis-
cussion of harvest for bioenergy of standing
live trees in southeastern US forests, the no-
harvest baseline is called “completely inap-
propriate” and “unrealistic” and is listed
fundamental ﬂaws in key assumptions and
methodology that underlie prominent
studies that have found forest-based bioen-
ergy to be associated with signiﬁcant carbon
deﬁcits (AEBIOM 2013, p. 5–6)
Instead, the report advocates using the so-
called “reference point baseline” (p. 36),
which is identical to carbon debt repayment.
Proponents of carbon debt repayment
(such as AEBIOM 2013, Jonker et al. 2014)
make the fundamental error of ignoring the
fate of forests in the reference fossil fuel sce-
nario. As noted earlier, in the fossil fuel sce-
nario, when GHG emissions from fossil fuel
combustion occur, they do so in lieu of bio-
energy, and so carbon stored in forests in-
creases over time. To claim emissions reduc-
tions from avoided fossil fuel use, it is
logically required that forest growth be ac-
counted for in the case where fossil fuels are
used (no harvest for bioenergy is needed).
Therefore, use of the carbon debt repayment
method results in incorrect estimates of bio-
energy GHG emissions.
As noted earlier, indirect LUC refers to
changes in land use outside the area man-
aged for bioenergy that occur as a conse-
quence of harvesting for bioenergy (Berndes
et al. 2010, Bird et al. 2011). For this reason,
the spatial scale of bioenergy studies where
indirect LUC is considered typically are re-
gional or national in scope (for examples, see
Abt et al. 2010, 2012, Ince et al. 2011, Galik
and Abt 2012, Daigneault et al. 2012, Nepal
et al. 2012, Sedjo and Tian 2012, Latta et al.
The above cited studies share in com-
mon the use of econometric models to ana-
lyze the effects of market prices and wood
products and bioenergy demand scenarios
on forest growing stock and/or carbon. Car-
bon accounting in these studies often has
serious shortcomings; for example, some do
not account for LCA emissions, whereas
others do not consider forest carbon pools
beyond those in harvested wood. Such
shortcomings can potentially alter whether
or when forest biomass produces a net atmo-
spheric carbon beneﬁt. Generally, and with
these caveats in mind, such studies conclude
that greater bioenergy demand would in-
crease biomass supply and that growth in
forest carbon due to indirect land use effects,
such as increased planting or silviculture,
may outpace forest carbon stock reductions
caused by bioenergy harvest.
In the event that indirect LUC is ac-
counted for, the estimation of GHG emis-
sions attributed to forest bioenergy still re-
quires quantiﬁcation of forest carbon stocks
in an appropriate forest baseline, as well as
LCA emissions for the bioenergy and refer-
ence fossil fuel scenarios. This is because di-
rect LUC associated with forest bioenergy
(forest landscape managed for bioenergy) is
“nested” in indirect LUC (changes to forest
and/or nonforested areas outside of the
landscape managed for forest bioenergy)
(Berndes et al. 2010). In other words, inclu-
sion of indirect LUC may alter the time to
carbon sequestration parity for a given for-
estry system, but it does not alter the meth-
odology of assessing the forest bioenergy
contribution to GHG emissions from this
system. In addition, it is important to verify
that potential indirect LUC does in practice
occur, taking note of Rabl et al. (2007), who
recommend that emissions and removals of
be accounted for explicitly during each
stage of the bioenergy life cycle. We consider
the recommendation by Rabl et al. (2007)
64 Journal of Forestry • January 2015
key, given some highly uncertain potential
consequences to indirect LUC resulting
from increased bioenergy demand.
Other Sources of Forest
Residue from ongoing harvest opera-
tions is the second most common potential
source of biomass considered in the litera-
ture on forest bioenergy. The GHG effects
of using harvest residue for bioenergy have
been studied by several authors (e.g., Mc-
Kechnie et al. 2011, Domke et al. 2012,
Repo et al. 2012). The key difference be-
tween assessing GHG effects of using har-
vest residue versus live trees as a source of
biomass is in the baseline scenario: in the
case of harvest residue, the baseline scenario
must include a projection of the amount of
carbon stored in harvest residue if it were not
collected because of an absence of demand
for bioenergy (an exception to the need to
account for the fate of harvest residue is if it
came from plantations established speciﬁ-
cally for bioenergy production). Conse-
quently, studies not including an analysis of
a residue baseline scenario are bound to
show shorter periods to reach a net reduc-
tion in GHG emissions (e.g., Yoshioka et al.
2005, Froese et al. 2010, Gustavsson et al.
Studies accounting for the fate of resi-
dues in the event they are not used for bio-
energy are consistent in concluding that an
overall reduction in GHG emissions is
achieved within the ﬁrst few years of biomass
collection. Based on literature reports re-
viewed by Lamers and Junginger (2013), the
time required to achieve the reduction in to-
tal GHG emissions ranges from 0 to 16 years
from the onset of harvest residue collection
for bioenergy. A variation in the time to
overall GHG emission reduction is caused
by assumptions about the fate of residue in
the baseline scenario (e.g., decomposition
rate and rate of slash burning) and the refer-
ence fossil fuel.
The assumption that harvest residue is a
carbon “free” source of biomass for energy
because otherwise it would be burned is an
exaggeration of its fate (for example, in
AEBIOM 2013, p. 18: “the majority of the
biomass left following harvest is burned as a
waste management measure”). The reality of
the residue baseline scenario is more com-
plex. First, in some regions, all harvest resi-
due is left on site to decompose; i.e., none is
burned (e.g., McKechnie et al. 2011). De-
composition varies by region, but it is not
instantaneous. Second, even where harvest
residue is burned, a substantial fraction does
not get burned for logistical reasons (e.g.,
insufﬁcient stafﬁng and weather condi-
tions). Analysis of annual forest management
reports by Ter-Mikaelian et al. (2014b) re-
vealed that fewer than 50% of slash piles
were burned in northwestern Ontario, Can-
ada. Differences in slash burning rates are
also apparent among the administrative re-
gions of British Columbia, Canada (Lamers
et al. 2014). Even in the case of slash burn-
ing, the net effect of collecting it for bioen-
ergy is not zero, contrary to the suggestion
by Miner et al. (2014), because of incom-
plete combustion, with between 5 and 25%
of residue in piles remaining after burning
(e.g., Hardy 1996). Incomplete combustion
of slash when burned produces black car-
bon, which resists biological and chemical
degradation (Forbes et al. 2006). Although
the black carbon pool is relatively small, its
stability makes it an important component
of total forest carbon. Thus, the baseline for
harvest residue is not straightforward and
should reﬂect local conditions and practices.
Sawmill residue (sawdust and wood
chips), because it is a by-product of tradi-
tional wood products, has a substantially
lower GHG baseline scenario compared
with that of other sources of biomass because
its LCA emissions include only those from
production and transportation of biofuel
GHGs from its combustion.
However, according to Gronowska et al.
(2009), in the United States about 98 and
60% of primary and secondary mill residue,
respectively, is already used for energy or
other value-added products; in Canada,
70% of mill residue is currently used. Prop-
erly assessing the GHG effects of mill resi-
due used for bioenergy thus requires knowl-
edge of the existing fate of mill residue to
correctly deﬁne its baseline scenario in the
absence of use for bioenergy.
Is Forest Bioenergy “Bad” for
The aim of this review is to promote
accurate accounting of the atmospheric ef-
fects of bioenergy, not to argue against using
forest biomass for energy generation. When
correctly accounted for, GHG emissions
from live tree forest biomass used for energy
exceed those from fossil fuels for periods of a
few years to more than a century, and the
difference can be substantial, depending on
the characteristics of the forest harvested and
the fossil fuel replaced by bioenergy. Even
when bioenergy from live tree biomass from
temperate forests replaces coal, a CO
tensive fossil fuel, the time to obtain a net
reduction in atmospheric CO
can be de-
cades; if it is replacing a less CO
fossil fuel, the time to achieve an atmo-
spheric beneﬁt may be more than 100 years.
Nevertheless, as correctly pointed out
by AEBIOM (2013) and NCASI (2013),
biomass combustion for bioenergy emits
carbon that is part of the biogenic carbon
cycle. Despite delays that may occur in
achieving a net reduction in atmospheric
carbon, as long as forests regrow, the total
amount of carbon in the biosphere-atmo-
sphere system remains approximately the
same, with small increases due to consump-
tion of fossil fuels to obtain, process, and
transport the biofuel. It is considerably more
damaging when energy is generated from
fossil fuels because this increases total carbon
in the biosphere-atmosphere system and is
essentially permanent. We also note that the
long-term GHG beneﬁts of substituting fos-
sil fuels with forest bioenergy will greatly
surpass those of carbon sequestration in for-
ests (e.g., see Miner et al. 2014) because net
carbon accumulation in the no-harvest base-
line scenario will slow substantially as forests
reach maturity, whereas the beneﬁts of sub-
stituting fossil fuels with forest bioenergy
will keep accumulating at a steady pace. In
addition, forest bioenergy may be needed as
a stopgap until sufﬁcient nonfossil fuel en-
ergy generation methods, with better atmo-
consequences than forest bio-
mass, can be implemented. Until then, even
a century-long increase in atmospheric CO
caused by using forest bioenergy may be
preferable to burning fossil fuels. As stated
by Dehue (2013), mitigation of climate
change may not be possible without broad-
scale use of forest bioenergy; in other words,
human society is probably going to require
use of all available options to mitigate cli-
mate change, whether such options provide
a short- or long-term GHG reduction ben-
There may be reasons beyond climate
change to harvest forests to produce bioen-
ergy, such as the opportunity for forest land-
owners to receive economic beneﬁts (as
mentioned in AEBIOM 2013), the eco-
nomic beneﬁts to society overall of reducing
dependence on imported fossil fuels (US
Department of Energy 2013), or achieve-
ment of ecological objectives for which for-
Journal of Forestry • January 2015 65
est disturbance is necessary (Colombo et al.
2012). However, the rationale for using for-
est bioenergy should avoid the false promises
of instant beneﬁts to climate change mitiga-
tion. In this regard, we note that the princi-
ples of carbon accounting discussed in this
review should not be confused with those
described by the United Nations Frame-
work Convention on Climate Change, the
latter reﬂecting international carbon ac-
counting entailing political compromises
needed to reach agreement among partici-
pating parties (Prag et al. 2013).
In conclusion, some biomass sources
used for forest bioenergy may indeed pro-
vide near-immediate GHG reduction,
whereas others produce decades- to century-
long increases in atmospheric GHGs. Our
goal in this review was to support what we
consider the use of scientiﬁcally sound
knowledge for informed decisionmaking
about using forest bioenergy for climate
change mitigation and to help remove con-
fusion caused by ﬂawed approaches to bio-
energy carbon accounting.
1. For more information, see www.seai.ie/
ABT, K.L., R.C. ABT,AND C. GALIK. 2012. Effect
of bioenergy demands and supply response on
markets, carbon, and land use. For. Sci. 58:
ABT, R.C., C.S. GALIK,AND J.D. HENDERSON.
2010. The nearterm market and greenhouse gas
implications of forest biomass utilization in the
Southeastern United States. Climate Change
Policy Partnership, Duke University, Dur-
ham, NC. Available online at nicholasinstitute.
forest-biomass-in-southeast-paper.pdf; last ac-
cessed Oct. 1, 2014.
AEBIOM. 2013. Forest sustainability and car-
bon balance of EU importation of North Amer-
ican forest biomass for bioenergy production
(AEBIOM). Report by AEBIOM European
Biomass Association, BC Bioenergy Network,
US Industrial Pellet Association, and Wood Pel-
let Association of Canada. Available online at
pdf; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
AGOSTINI, A., J. GIUNTOLI,AND A. BOULAMANTI.
2013. Carbon accounting of forest bioenergy:
Conclusions and recommendations from a criti-
cal literature review. European Commission
Joint Research Centre, Institute for Energy,
and Transport, Tech. Rep. EUR 25354 EN.
Available online at iet.jrc.ec.europa.eu/bf-ca/
online-ﬁnal.pdf; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
BONIN, C., AND R. LAL. 2012. Bioethanol poten-
tials and life-cycle assessments of biofuel feed-
stocks. Crit. Rev. Plant Sci. 31:271–289.
BRANDER, M., R. TIPPER,C.HUTCHISON,AND G.
DAVIS. 2008. Consequential and attributional
approaches to LCA: A guide to policy makers with
speciﬁc reference to greenhouse gas LCA of biofu-
els. Ecometrica Press. 14 p. Available online at
attributional_approaches_to_LCA.pdf; last ac-
cessed Oct. 1, 2014.
BERNDES, G., N. BIRD,AND A. COWIE. 2010. Bio-
energy, land use change and climate change mit-
igation. IEA Bioenergy:ExCo:2010:03. 20 p.
Available online at task39.org/ﬁles/2013/05/
Change-Mitigation.pdf; last accessed Oct. 1,
BIRD, N., A. COWIE,F.CHERUBINI,AND G. JUNG-
MEIER. 2011. Using a life cycle assessment ap-
proach to estimate the net greenhouse gas emis-
sions of bioenergy. IEA Bioenergy:ExCo:2011:
03. 20 p. Available online at www.ieabioenergy.
last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
CAMPBELL, J.E., J.F. FOX,AND P.M. ACTON.
2012. Terrestrial carbon losses from moun-
taintop coal mining offset regional forest car-
bon sequestration in the 21st century. Environ.
Res. Lett. 7:045701, 6 p. doi:10.1088/1748–
CHEN, J., S. COLOMBO,AND M. TER-MIKAELIAN.
2008. Future carbon storage in harvested
wood products from Ontario’s Crown forests.
Can. J. For. Res. 38:1947–1958.
CHEN, J., S. COLOMBO,AND M. TER-MIKAELIAN.
2013. Carbon stocks and ﬂows from harvest to
disposal in harvested wood products from On-
tario and Canada. Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources, Climate Change Res. Rep. CCRR-
33, Applied Research and Development
Branch, Ontario, Canada. 41 p.
CHERUBINI, F., N.D. BIRD,A.COWIE,G.JUNG-
MEIER,B.SCHLAMADINGER,AND S. WOESS-
GALLASCHA. 2009. Energy- and greenhouse
gas-based LCA of biofuel and bioenergy sys-
tems: Key issues, ranges and recommenda-
tions. Resour. Conserv. Recycling 53:434–447.
CHERUBINI, F., G.P. PETERS,T.BERNTSEN, A.H.
STRØMMAN,AND E. HERTWICH. 2011. CO
emissions from biomass combustion for bioen-
ergy: Atmospheric decay and contribution to
global warming. Global Change Biol. Bioenergy
COLOMBO, S.J., J. CHEN, M.T. TER-MIKAELIAN,
J. MCKECHNIE, P.C. ELKIE, H.L. MACLEAN,
AND L.S. HEATH. 2012. Forest protection and
forest harvest as strategies for ecological sus-
tainability and climate change mitigation. For.
Ecol. Manage. 281:140–151.
COOPER, C.F. 1983. Carbon storage in managed
forests. Can. J. For. Res. 13:155–166.
DAIGNEAULT, A., B. SOHNGEN,AND R. SEDJO.
2012. Economic approach to assess the forest
carbon implications of biomass energy. Envi-
ron. Sci. Technol. 46:5664–5671.
DEHUE, B. 2013. Implications of a ‘carbon debt’
on bioenergy’s potential to mitigate climate
change. Biofuels Bioprod. Bioreﬁning 7:228–
DOMKE, G.M., D.R. BECKER, A.W. D’AMATO,
A.R. EK,AND C.W. WOODALL. 2012. Carbon
emissions associated with the procurement
and utilization of forest harvest residues for en-
ergy, northern Minnesota, USA. Biomass Bio-
DROHAN, P.J., M. BRITTINGHAM,J.BISHOP,AND
K. YODER. 2012. Early trends in landcover
change and forest fragmentation due to shale-
gas development in Pennsylvania: A potential
outcome for the Northcentral Appalachians.
Environ. Manage. 49:1061–1075.
FORBES, M.S., R.J. RAISON,AND J.O. SKJEMSTAD.
2006. Formation, transformation and trans-
port of black carbon (charcoal) in terrestrial
and aquatic ecosystems. Sci. Total Environ.
FROESE, R.E., D.R. SHONNARD, C.A. MILLER,
K.P. KOERS,AND D.M. JOHNSON. 2010. An
evaluation of greenhouse gas mitigation op-
tions for coal-ﬁred power plants in the US
Great Lakes States. Biomass Bioenergy 34:251–
FUGLESTVEDT, J.S., K.P. SHINE,T.BERNTSEN,
J. COOK, D.S. LEE,A.STENKE, R.B. SKEIE,
G.J.M. VELDERS,AND I.A. WAITZ. 2010.
Transport impacts on atmosphere and cli-
mate: Metrics. Atmos. Environ. Vol. 44:
GALIK, C.S., AND R.C. ABT. 2012. The effect of
assessment scale and metric selection on the
greenhouse gas beneﬁts of woody biomass.
Biomass Bioenergy 44:1–7.
GRONOWSKA, M., S. JOSHI,AND H.L. MACLEAN.
2009. A review of US and Canadian biomass
supply studies. BioResources 4:341–369.
GUSTAVSSON, L., L. ERIKSSON,AND R. SATHRE.
2011. Costs and CO
beneﬁts of recovering,
reﬁning and transporting logging residues for
fossil fuel replacement. Appl. Energy 88:192–
GUSTAVSSON, L., K. PINGOUD,AND R. SATHRE.
2006. Carbon dioxide balance of wood substi-
tution: Comparing concrete- and wood-
framed buildings. Mitig. Adapt. Strategies
Global Change 11:667–691.
HABERL, H., D. SPRINZ,M.BONAZOUNTAS,P.
ET AL. 2012. Correcting a fundamental error in
greenhouse gas accounting related to bioen-
ergy. Energy Policy 45:18–23.
HARDY, C.C. 1996 Guidelines for estimating vol-
ume, biomass, and smoke production for piled
slash. USDA For. Serv., Gen. Tech. Rep.
PNW-GTR-364, Paciﬁc Northwest Research
Station, Portland, OR. 17 p.
HAVLIK, P., U.W. SCHNEIDER,E.SCHMID,H.
AL. 2011. Global land-use implications of ﬁrst
and second generation biofuel targets. Energy
Policy 39: 5690–5702.
HEDEGAARD, K., K. THYØ,AND H. WENZEL.
2008. Life cycle assessment of an advanced
66 Journal of Forestry • January 2015
bioethanol technology in the perspective of
constrained biomass availability. Environ. Sci.
Technol. 42: 7992–7999.
HELIN, T., L. SOKKA,S.SOIMAKALLIO,K.
PINGOUD,AND T. PAJULA. 2013. Approaches
for inclusion of forest carbon cycle in life cycle
assessment—A review. Global Change Biol.
HOLTSMARK, B. 2012. Harvesting in boreal for-
ests and the biofuel carbon debt. Climatic
HUDIBURG, T.W., B.E. LAW,C.WIRTH,AND S.
LUYSSAERT. 2011. Regional carbon dioxide im-
plications of forest bioenergy production. Nat.
Climate Change 1:419–423.
HUJALA, M., H. ARMINEN, R.C. HILL,AND K.
PUUMALAINEN. 2013. Explaining the shifts of
international trade in pulp and paper industry.
For. Sci. 59:211–222.
INCE, P., A. KRAMP,K.SKOG,D.YOO,AND V.
SAMPLE. 2011. Modeling future US forest sec-
tor market and trade impacts of expansion in
wood energy consumption. J. For. Econ. 17:
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
(IPCC). 2006. IPCC guidelines for national green-
house gas inventories, Vol. 2: Energy, Eggleston,
H.S., L. Buenida, K. Miwa, T. Ngara, and K.
Tanabe (eds.). Intergovernmental Panel on Cli-
mate Change, Japan, 2006. Available online at
accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE
CHANGE (IPCC). 2007. Climate change 2007:
The physical science basis; contribution of Work-
ing Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning,
Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor,
and H.L. Miller (eds.). Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, UK. Available online at www.
contents.html; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
JOHNSON, E., AND D. TSCHUDI. 2012. Baseline
effects on carbon footprints of biofuels: The
case of wood. Environ. Impact Assess. Rev. 37:
JONKER, J.G.G., H.M. JUNGINGER,AND A. FAAIJ.
2014. Carbon payback period and carbon off-
set parity point of wood pellet production in
the Southeastern USA. Global Change Biol.
KURZ, W.A., C.C. DYMOND, T.M. WHITE,G.
STINSON, C.H. SHAW, G.J. RAMPLEY,C.
SMYTH,ET AL. 2009. CBM-CFS3: A model of
carbon-dynamics in forestry and land-use
change implementing IPCC standards. Ecol.
LAMERS, P., AND M. JUNGINGER. 2013. The ‘debt’
is in the detail: A synthesis of recent temporal
forest carbon analyses on woody biomass for
energy. Biofuels Bioprod. Bioreﬁning 7:373–
LAMERS, P., M. JUNGINGER, C.C. DYMOND,AND
A. FAAIJ. 2014. Damaged forests provide an
opportunity to mitigate climate change.
Global Change Biol. Bioenergy 6:44–60.
LATTA, G.S., J.S. BAKER, R.H. BEACH, S.K. ROSE,
AND B.A. MCKARL. 2013. A multi-sector inter-
temporal optimization approach to assess the
GHG implications of US forest and agricul-
tural biomass electricity expansion. J. For.
LIPPKE, B., E. ONEIL,R.HARRISON,K.SKOG,L.
GUSTAVSSON,AND R. SATHRE. 2011. Life cycle
impacts of forest management and wood utili-
zation on carbon mitigation: Knowns and un-
knowns. Carbon Manage. 2:303–333.
LUYSSAERT, S., E.-D. SCHULZE,A.BO¨ RNER,A.
KNOHL,D.HESSENMO¨ LLER, B.E. LAW,P.CI-
AIS,AND J. GRACE. 2008. Old-growth forests as
global carbon sinks. Nature 456:213–215.
MARLAND, G. 2010. Accounting for carbon diox-
ide emissions from bioenergy systems. J. Ind.
MATTHEWS, R., N. MORTIMER,E.MACKIE,C.
W. ROLLS,M.SAYCE,AND I. TUBBY. 2012.
Carbon impacts of using biomass in bioenergy
and other sectors: Forests. Research Agency of
the Forestry Commission, Rep. URN 12D/
085, UK. Available online at www.gov.uk/
pdf; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
MCKECHNIE, J., S. COLOMBO,J.CHEN,W.MA-
BEE,AND H.L. MACLEAN. 2011. Forest bioen-
ergy or forest carbon? Assessing trade-offs in
greenhouse gas mitigation with wood-based
fuels. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45:789–795.
MICALES, J.A., AND K.E. SKOG. 1997. The de-
composition of forest products in landﬁlls. Int.
Biodeterior. Biodegrad. 39:145–158.
MINER, R.A., R.C. ABT, J.L. BOWYER, M.A. BU-
FORD, R.W. MALMSHEIMER,J.O’LAUGHLIN, E.E.
ONEIL, R.A. SEDJO,AND K.E. SKOG. 2014. Forest
carbon accounting considerations in US bioen-
ergy policy. J. For. 112:32–40.
MITCHELL, S.R., M.E. HARMON,AND K.E.
O’CONNELL. 2012. Carbon debt and carbon
sequestration parity in forest bioenergy pro-
duction. Global Change Biol. Bioenergy 4:818–
NAIK, S.N., V.V. GOUD, P.K. ROUT,AND A.K.
DALAI. 2010. Production of ﬁrst and second
generation biofuels: A comprehensive re-
view. Renewable Sustain. Energy Rev. 14:
NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR AIR AND STREAM IM-
PROVEMENT,INC. 2013. A review of biomass
carbon accounting methods and implications.
National Council for Air and Stream Improve-
ment, Inc., Tech. Bull. No. 1015, Research
Triangle Park, NC. Available online at www.
8832; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
NEPAL, P., P. INCE,K.SKOG,AND S. CHANG.
2012. Projection of US forest sector carbon
sequestration under US and global timber
market and wood energy consumption scenar-
ios, 2010–2060. Biomass Bioenergy 45:251–
PAN, Y., R.A. BIRDSEY,J.FANG,R.HOUGHTON,
P.E. KAUPPI, W.A. KURZ, O.L. PHILLIPS,ET AL.
2011. A large and persistent carbon sink in the
world’s forests. Science 333:988–993.
PRAG, A., C. HOOD,AND P.M. BARATA. 2013.
Made to measure: Options for emissions account-
ing under the UNFCCC. Climate Change
Expert Group Pap. No. 2013(1). Available
online at www.oecd.org/ofﬁcialdocuments/
&docLanguage⫽En; last accessed Oct. 1,
RABL, A., A. BENOIST,D.DRON,B.PEUPORTIER,
J.V. SPADARO,AND A. ZOUGHAIB. 2007. How
to account for CO
emissions from biomass in
an LCA. Int. J. Life Cycle Assess. 12:281.
RAY, C. 2012. One way or another. Can. Biomass
2012 (Nov–Dec). Available online at www.
3827&Itemid⫽132; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
REPO, A., R. KA¨ NKA¨NEN, J.-P. TUOVINEN,R.AN-
LISKI. 2012. Forest bioenergy climate impact
can be improved by allocating forest residue
removal. Global Change Biol. Bioenergy 4:202–
RICHTER, K. 1998. Life cycle assessment of wood
products. P. 219–248 in Carbon dioxide miti-
gation in forestry and wood industry, Kohlmaier,
G.H., M. Weber, and R.A. Houghton (eds.).
Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.
SATHRE, R., AND L. GUSTAVSSON. 2011. Time-
dependent climate beneﬁts of using forest res-
idues to substitute fossil fuels. Biomass Bioen-
SEARCHINGER, T.D., S.P. HAMBURG,J.MELILLO,
W. CHAMEIDES,P.HAVLIK, D.M. KAMMEN,
G.E. LIKENS,ET AL. 2009. Fixing a critical cli-
mate accounting error. Science 326:527–528.
SEDJO, R.A. 2011. Carbon neutrality and bioen-
ergy: A zero-sum game? Resources for the Fu-
ture, Discussion Pap. RFF DP 11–15, Wash-
ington, DC. Available online at www.rff.org/
documents/RFF-DP-11-15.pdf; last accessed
Oct. 1, 2014.
SEDJO, R.A., AND X. TIAN. 2012. Does wood bio-
energy increase carbon stocks in forests? J. For.
SHINE, K.P. 2009. The global warming poten-
tial—The need for an interdisciplinary retrial.
Climatic Change 96:467–472.
SKOG, K.E., AND G.A. NICHOLSON. 2000. Car-
bon sequestration in wood and paper prod-
ucts. P. 79–88 in The impact of climate change
on America’s forests: A technical document sup-
porting the 2000 USDA Forest Service RPA as-
sessment, Joyce, L.A., and R. Birdsey (eds.).
USDA For. Serv., Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-
GTR-59, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fort Collins, CO. 133 p.
SLEETER, B.M., T.S. WILSON,AND W. ACEVEDO
(EDS.). 2012. Status and trends of land change in
the Western United States—1973 to 2000. US
Geological Survey, Professional Pap. 1794-A.
324 p. Available online at pubs.usgs.gov/pp/
1794/a/; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
STRAUSS, W. 2011. How Manomet got it back-
wards: Challenging the “debt-then-dividend” ax-
iom. Available online at futuremetrics.info/
Journal of Forestry • January 2015 67
Got-it-Backwards.pdf; last accessed Oct. 1,
STRAUSS, W. 2013. Why CO
from wood fuels is
carbon neutral in combustion. Environ. Man-
age. Mag. 2013(May):13–15. Available online
at www.awma.org; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
STRAUSS,W.,AND L. SCHMIDT. 2012. Bioen-
ergy battle—Wood versus coal. Can. Biomass
2012 (Mar–Apr). Available online at www.
3247&Itemid⫽132; last accessed Oct. 1,
TER-MIKAELIAN, M., S.J. COLOMBO,AND J. CHEN.
2014a. Effect of age and disturbance on dec-
adal changes in carbon stocks in managed for-
est landscapes in central Canada. Mitigation
Adaptation Strategies Global Change 19:1063–
TER-MIKAELIAN, M.T., S.J. COLOMBO,D.
TUS,E.LAURIN, A.-M. CHAPMAN,J.CHEN,
AND H.L. MCLEAN. 2014b. Carbon debt re-
payment or carbon sequestration parity? Les-
sons from a forest bioenergy case study in On-
tario, Canada. Global Change Biol. Bioenergy.
doi: 10.1111/gcbb. 12198.
TER-MIKAELIAN, M.T., J. MCKECHNIE, S.J. CO-
LOMBO,J.CHEN,AND H.L. MACLEAN. 2011.
The carbon neutrality assumption for forest
bioenergy: A case study for northwestern On-
tario. For. Chron. 87:644–652.
NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA. 2013. The state of
Canada’s forests: Annual report 2013. Ottawa,
ON, Canada. 56 p. Available online at cfs-
.nrcan.gc.ca/publications?id⫽35191; last ac-
cessed Oct 1, 2014.
US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY. 2013. Replacing the
whole barrel: To reduce US dependence on oil.
Available online at www1.eere.energy.gov/
pdf; last accessed Oct. 1, 2014.
US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. 2011.
Accounting framework for biogenic CO
from stationary sources. US Environmental Pro-
tection Agency Ofﬁce of Atmospheric Programs
Climate Change Division. Available online at
Framework-Report-Sept-2011.pdf; last ac-
cessed Oct. 1, 2014.
WERNER, F., R. TAVERNA,P.HOFER,E.THU¨ RIG,
AND E. KAUFMANN. 2010. National and global
greenhouse gas dynamics of different forest
management and wood use scenarios: A mod-
el-based assessment. Environ. Sci. Policy 13:
YOSHIOKA, T., K. ARUGA,T.NITAMI,H.KO-
BAYASHI,AND H. SAKAI. 2005. Energy and
carbon dioxide (CO
) balance of logging
residues as alternative energy resources: Sys-
tem analysis based on the method of a life
cycle inventory (LCI) analysis. J. For. Res.
ZHANG, Y., J. MCKECHNIE,D.CORMIER,R.
LYNG,W.MABEE,A.OGINO,AND H.L. MA-
CLEAN. 2010. Life cycle emissions and cost of
producing electricity from coal, natural gas,
and wood pellets in Ontario, Canada. Environ.
Sci. Technol. 44:538–544.
ZISKA, L.H. 2008. Rising atmospheric carbon di-
oxide and plant biology: The overlooked par-
adigm. DNA Cell Biol. 27:165–172.
68 Journal of Forestry • January 2015