Forests can help mitigate climate change in different ways, such as by storing carbon in forest ecosystems, and by producing a renewable supply of material and energy products. We analyse the climate implications of different scenarios for forestry, bioenergy and wood construction. We consider three main forestry scenarios for Kronoberg County in Sweden, over a 201-year period. The Business-as-usual scenario mirrors today's forestry while in the Production scenario the forest productivity is increased by 40% through more intensive forestry. In the Set-aside scenario 50% of forest land is set-aside for conservation. The Production scenario results in less net carbon dioxide emissions and cumulative radiative forcing compared to the other scenarios, after an initial period of 30–35 years during which the Set-aside scenario has less emissions. In the end of the analysed period, the Production scenario yields strong emission reductions, about ten times greater than the initial reduction in the Set-aside scenario. Also, the Set-aside scenario has higher emissions than Business-as-usual after about 80 years. Increasing the harvest level of slash and stumps results in climate benefits, due to replacement of more fossil fuel. Greatest emission reduction is achieved when biomass replaces coal, and when modular timber buildings are used. In the long run, active forestry with high harvest and efficient utilisation of biomass for replacement of carbon-intensive non-wood products and fuels provides significant climate mitigation, in contrast to setting aside forest land to store more carbon in the forest and reduce the harvest of biomass.
The Nature Conservancy is leading a multi-institution collaboration to quantify the potential for innovative mass timber materials to support improved forest management, revitalize forest economies and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Life cycle assessments (LCAs) of engineered timber products such as glued laminated timber (glulam) and cross-laminated timber (CLT) in construction have highlighted their environmental advantages over conventional materials such as concrete and steel. However, there is little understanding of how developing new markets for such materials could support the wood product sector and the management of US forests. This applied research will assess in detail the potential impacts of large-scale growth in mass timber demand on wood product markets, timber harvest, forest management and climate change mitigation in key wood-producing regions across the USA and globally, as well as opportunities to leverage these markets to support US forest management and rural economies. The findings will be used to produce peer-reviewed publications and design a suite of targeted stakeholder engagement materials and programs, providing an objective, credible fact base to inform the design of policies and programs to maximize environmental and economic benefits of mass timber use for the forest sector.