Approaches for Inclusion of Forest Carbon Cycle in Life Cycle Assessment—A Review

by Makari Krause

Terrestrial biomass is a huge carbon sink for our planet, functioning at a similar magnitude to our oceans. Deforestation and forest degradation not only remove this valuable carbon sink but also release all of the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Long-rotation harvesting of forest biomass has always been thought to be a carbon-and-climate-neutral process because as carbon is released during combustion or decay of harvested biomass it is sequestered into the growing biomass. The issue may be more complex than originally thought and there are a number of different factors that play a part. Timing is very important in the rotation process and any timing difference between carbon release and sequestration can lead to a situation where carbon is left in the atmosphere and will lead to warming even if it is eventually sequestered. While harvesting forest biomass may be carbon-neutral over the long run, it can still have implications for climate change. Helin et al. (2013) carry out a literature review to analyze some different life cycle assessment studies and establish their suitability in determining the climate implications of harvesting terrestrial biomass. Continue reading