New research from last week 14/2012

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Ari Jokimäki


Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral – Schulze et al. (2012)


Abstract: “Owing to the peculiarities of forest net primary production humans would appropriate ca. 60% of the global increment of woody biomass if forest biomass were to produce 20% of current global primary energy supply. We argue that such an increase in biomass harvest would result in younger forests, lower biomass pools, depleted soil nutrient stocks and a loss of other ecosystem functions.

The proposed strategy is likely to miss its main objective, i.e. to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, because it would result in a reduction of biomass pools that may take decades to centuries to be paid back by fossil fuel substitution, if paid back at all.

Eventually, depleted soil fertility will make the production unsustainable and require fertilization, which in turn increases GHG emissions due to N2O emissions.

Hence, large-scale production of bioenergy from forest biomass is neither sustainable nor GHG neutral.”


Citation: Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Christian Körner, Beverly E. Law, Helmut Haberl, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, GCB Bioenergy, DOI: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2012.01169.x.



This carbon neutral claim has always sounded suspect. Chopping forest causes a loss of water distribution that limits the ability to sustain new growth.  The result points to more desertification.  Climate change deniers like to reference millions of years ago when the planet sustained far more CO2 in the air. 

We must not forget the climatic conditions which preceded this situation.  We cannot expect an increase of CO2 now to develop into anything like what happened millions of years ago.  Anyway, unless our thinking changes, water supplies left available will be used to sustain humans and not trees.