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There are five major methods of forest biomass harvesting that can be adopted, each with its own silvicultural implications.
A field of willow after being harvested for biomass. Photo: David Wright, Geograph.org (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Small-diameter woody tree utilization. One method is the harvest of small-diameter trees that would not otherwise be usable by the traditional forest industry and may be used to modify and improve the management of existing stands.
Low-value tree utilization. The method of utilizing low-value trees for biomass is most applicable to large areas of degraded forest to improve species composition and stand quality.
Timber-harvest-residue utilization. Harvesting residues can occur either simultaneously with a roundwood harvest or following logging operations (Richardson and others, 2002). Either type of residue removal can reduce fire risks and improve certain forest health issues within the stand. The timing of the residue harvest can impact silvicultural practices and costs associated with stand regeneration and subsequent stand development.
Shrub utilization. A fourth method is the harvest of competing woody shrubs as part of site preparation treatments designed to prepare a stand for regeneration.
Short-rotation woody crop utilization. The final method is the harvest of short-rotation woody crops grown for the specific purpose of producing large volumes of biomass within a short period of time. Although fiber from these forests is currently only a very minor source of biomass compared to that coming from forest residues, strategies have been developed for managing short-rotation woody crops.
With all these methods, bioenergy operations can be integrated into a silvicultural system to optimize outcomes.
Charlie Blinn, Professor and Extension Specialist, UMN
Diomy S. Zamora, Extension Professor, UMN Twin Cities
Adapted with permission from
The Forest Encyclopedia Network