Paper examines Swedish forestry and its potential roles in climate change mitigation

Sustainably managed forests can play an important role in strategies to mitigate long-term greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon in forests and in long-lived products, and by providing woody biomass that substitutes for fossil fuels.

Recently, a paper published in the journal Forests presented an analysis of the relationship between forest management, the use of forest products, and the carbon balance of the Swedish forest sector. The authors simulated the long-term carbon balance effects of three scenarios that combine different forest management practices and biomass use alternatives for all managed forests in Sweden. The authors also considered imports and exports of forest products between countries. The paper was written by Tomas Lundmark of the Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and eight co-authors. The abstract follows.

In Sweden, where forests cover more than 60% of the land area, silviculture and the use of forest products by industry and society play crucial roles in the national carbon balance. A scientific challenge is to understand how different forest management and wood use strategies can best contribute to climate change mitigation benefits. This study uses a set of models to analyze the effects of different forest management and wood use strategies in Sweden on carbon dioxide emissions and removals through 2105. If the present Swedish forest use strategy is continued, the long-term climate change mitigation benefit will correspond to more than 60 million tons of avoided or reduced emissions of carbon dioxide annually, compared to a scenario with similar consumption patterns in society but where non-renewable products are used instead of forest-based products. On average about 470 kg of carbon dioxide emissions are avoided for each cubic meter of biomass harvested, after accounting for carbon stock changes, substitution effects and all emissions related to forest management and industrial processes. Due to Sweden’s large export share of forest-based products, the climate change mitigation effect of Swedish forestry is larger abroad than within the country. The study also shows that silvicultural methods to increase forest biomass production can further reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 40 million tons of per year. Forestry’s contribution to climate change mitigation could be significantly increased if management of the boreal forest were oriented towards increased biomass production and if more wood were used to substitute fossil fuels and energy-intensive materials.


Reference 

Lundmark, T., J. Bergh, P. Hofer, A. Lundström, A. Nordin, B. C. Poudel, R. Sathre, R. Taverna, and F. Werner. 2014. Potential roles of Swedish forestry in the context of climate change mitigation. Forests 5(4): 557-578. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/f5040557