According to a study conducted by the University of Maine, a new technology can improve the carbon storage of wood products harvested in Maine by using the materials for innovative and sustainable end uses such as building materials.

Harvested wood products used in buildings, paper, biochar and more all store carbon. Agencies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provide guidance on how to calculate the carbon stored in harvested wood products, but this often does not take into account the many advances made by industry over the last century. The impact of new innovative products, improved treatment efficiency and increased product recycling rates are rarely included in these existing calculation methods.

“Although we had some theories about the levels and extent of carbon stored in our forests, it wasn’t until this comprehensive assessment was done that we gained greater confidence in the data,” says Ling Li. , Assistant Professor of Sustainable Bioenergy Systems at UMaine. .

Li joined Daniel Hayes, associate professor of geospatial analysis and remote sensing, and other researchers from UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, as well as Xinyuan Wei from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, to create a new carbon accounting framework that incorporates the influence of technological advances in wood products. The researchers then used this framework to examine the carbon dynamics associated with wood product pools in Maine from 1901 to 2019.

Researchers found that harvested wood products contain 11% of all the carbon stored in Maine’s entire forest sector – a significant amount, but lower than other places in the world due to the fact that much of the wood harvested in Maine is pulpwood and used to produce paper with a shorter lifespan. The study suggests that advances in technology – such as the use of harvested wood products for construction and household applications, which have a significantly longer lifespan than paper – can increase this storage by up to 44% and increase the carbon stored in the forestry and wood sector. products at 15%.

The study reveals that the production of innovative and sustainable wood products, such as solid wood panels and wood fiber insulation for buildings and homes, will play the most important role in expanding this capacity. carbon storage. Higher processing efficiency and recycling rates are less important to achieving carbon storage for harvested wood products in Maine, but still have a role to play.

“Understanding where different forest products and end uses impact and influence the carbon storage life cycle can help our decision makers develop long-term carbon strategies for our state and guide economic development and research areas aligned with these. goals,” Li says.

The study was published in the June 2022 issue of the journal Biomass and Bioenergy.

The framework developed by the researchers will help other regions develop a more accurate picture of the carbon accounting of their harvested wood products, although the algorithm will need to be adjusted slightly for each location. Li and other faculty at the School of Forest Resources are also developing innovative wood-fiber insulation board products for building applications using Maine’s forest resources.

Contact: Sam Schipani, [email protected]