Impacts of the US southeast wood pellet industry on local forest carbon stocks

By Francisco Aguilar, Houston Sudekum et al
November 14, 2022
Category: Carbon, Climate & Bioenergy
Region: United States, US East

We assessed the net impacts of a wood-dependent pellet industry of global importance on contemporaneous local forest carbon component pools (live trees, standing-dead trees, soils) and total stocks. We conducted post-matched difference-in-differences analyses of forest inventory data between 2000 and 2019 to infer industrial concurrent and lagged effects in the US coastal southeast. Results point to contemporaneous carbon neutrality. We found net incremental effects on carbon pools within live trees, and no net effects on standing-dead tree nor soil pools. However, we found concurrent lower carbon levels in soils, mixed effects associated with increased procurement pressures and large mill pelletization capacity, and possible spillover effects on standing-dead tree carbon pools beyond commercial procurement distances. There is robust evidence that although some trade-offs between carbon pools exist, the wood pellet industry in this particular context and period has met the overall condition of forest carbon neutrality.

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