PANEL: Environmental Considerations in Forest Biomass Use and Bioenergy Production

Thursday, May 2, 2013
3:30 pm to 5:00 pm
107 Richardson Hall

Event Description

The following three panelists will present a brief summary of key environmental concerns relative to their expertise, present relevant research findings, and discuss future issues to consider with varying levels of forest biomass utilization.  Following this brief summary and introduction of topics, the panelists will field questions and/or comments from the audience.



Matt Betts

Matthew Betts
Associate Professor
Forest Ecosystems and Society
Oregon State University

Forest Bioenergy and Biodiversity:   A Preliminary Research Agenda

Speaker Biography

Dr. Matthew Betts, is an Associate Professor at Oregon State University in the Dept. of Forest Ecosystems and Society.  Dr. Betts has hid PhD from the University of New Brunswick in Canada and did his postdoc at Dartmouth College, NH. Dr. Betts' researches the influence of landscape spatial pattern and forest management on species distributions, population dynamics and ecosystem processes.  Applied aspects of his work centers on detecting thresholds in habitat loss associated with population declines and/or species persistence in forests throughout the world.


Rob Harrison


Robert Harrison
Stand Management Cooperative
School of Environmental
& Forest Sciences
College of the Environment
University of Washington



Nutrient Limitations on Sustainability of Coastal Pacific Northwest Forests for Bioenergy Production

Traditional harvests of forests in the Pacific Northwest (USA and Canada) leave substantial amounts of organic matter behind. The ecological roles of this material are well-studied and their role in certain ecosystem processes is well-documented. Their role in maintaining the productivity of future stands is not well-studied. Occasionally the material creates regeneration and fire hazards and is removed and/or burned at considerable expense. Current interest in the use of this currently unutilized biomass for energy production may lead to higher volumes of organic matter removal during timber harvest due to additional removal of branches and foliage, thus resulting in higher carbon and nutrient removal than occurs in traditional, bole only harvest. The potential for such higher harvest intensity necessitates a careful evaluation of the influence of forest management practices on long-term forest productivity. Biomass, carbon and nitrogen pools in soil (1 m depth) and tree components in 71 intensively managed Douglas-fir plantations in western Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. The potential removal of N during harvesting was compared to total ecosystem pools of nutrients to determine the relative removals compared to the total ecosystem N pools to assign a risk rating to each potential harvest site. The evaluation was used as a basis for assigning relative risk to the potential use of the forests as sources of bioenergy in the Pacific Northwest vs. traditional harvests for timber. An extended study of deep soil carbon and nutrients was conducted on 24 of the sites, with soil sampled up to 4 m depth.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Rob Harrison is Professor of Forest Soil and Environmental Sciences at the University of Washington and focuses on sustaining and increasing the long-term productivity of forests and biomass production systems through nutrient management and amendments.  He is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, served as Associate Editor and reviewer for several journals and published numerous journal articles and other publications.  He received degrees in Soil Science and Forestry from North Carolina State University, the University of New Hampshire and Auburn University (Alabama), and completed a postdoctoral research associateship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  He has studied nutrient, heavy metal and pathogen movement in soils, the impacts of compost, biosolids wastewater and fertilizer additions on soil/plant systems, the use of organic wastes as soil amendments, long-term forest productivity, the impacts of forest fertilization and management on forest soil properties and carbon sequestration.  He variously teaches 12 different courses, ranging from large introductory courses including Environmental Science (over 2000 students per year) to Advanced Soil Chemistry and Soil, Plant and Water Analysis, over 25,000 students throughout the world have taken one or more of his courses.  He has served as advisor to 56 graduate students, many of them currently working in industry, government and academia. 


Elaine OneilElaine Oneil
Research Scientist
School of Environmental
& Forest Sciences
Executive Director, Consortium for Research
on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM)
University of Washington


Life Cycle Analysis of Bioenergy Production from Woody Feedstocks
-- A Comparison Across Alternative Options

A summary of 12 different pathways for bioenergy production highlighting the relative life cycle impacts of each with be provided.  The assumptions used and relative merits of each pathway will be discussed.

Speaker Biography

Elaine Oneil is a research scientist at the University of Washington and the Executive Director of CORRIM (Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials), an 18 university research consortium that has spent the last 15 years conducting life cycle inventory and life cycle assessments on wood products from cradle to grave.  She has Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of British Columbia and MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Washington.   Her focus is on operational research aimed at addressing forest management questions as diverse as understanding the impacts of harvesting on bald eagle nesting; management of Douglas-fir at the edge of its climatic range; climate change impacts on forest health in Inland West forests; integration of forest carbon accounting into a forest management framework; ecological and economic constraints to biomass feedstock availability; life cycle analysis; and timber supply analysis.