Forest Carbon - Snapshot of Key Findings

Carbon overview - Australian forestry

Ximenes F. (2023) Forests, Plantations, Wood Products & Australia's Carbon Balance, Forest & Wood Products Australia.

  • Forestry can play a significant role in climate mitigation.
  • It is important to understand carbon dynamics in forests and also in wood products.
  • This publication presents key facts and figures associated with carbon dynamics from the forestry sector in Australia.
  • There are opportunities to increase the carbon abatement from Australian forestry even further.

Carbon balance - native forestry

Ximenes F, George B, Cowie A, Williams J and Kelly G. (2012) Greenhouse Gas Balance of Native Forests in New South Wales, Australia, Forests 3(3): 653-683.

  • There is considerable debate on the relative carbon benefits of managing native forests for production compared to management for conservation only.
  • This study uses forest inventory data from the Forestry Corporation of NSW for large areas of managed native hardwood forests to determine long-term carbon scenarios.
  • The analysis includes a life cycle approach to determine the carbon dynamics in the harvested wood products.
  • The study concludes that managing native hardwood forests for production leads to superior climate outcomes.

“These two case studies show that forests managed for production provide the greatest ongoing greenhouse gas benefits, with long-term carbon storage in products, and product substitution benefits critical to the outcome. Thus, native forests could play a significant part in climate change mitigation, particularly when sustainably managed for production of wood and non-wood products including biomass for bioenergy.”

Forestry - bioenergy

Ximenes F. (2021) Forestry, bioenergy and climate – a way forward in Australia, Australian Forestry, 84(1): 1-3.

  • There are large volumes of under-utilised biomass from forest harvest and wood processing operations.
  • There is an opportunity to use this resource to supply a growing bioeconomy market.
  • The analysis includes a life cycle approach to determine the carbon dynamics in the harvested wood products.
  • This editorial outlines the various benefits of this approach, including a positive contribution to climate abatement.

Carbon in wood products in landfills

Ximenes F, Björdal C, Kathuria A, Barlaz M and Cowie A. (2019) Improving understanding of carbon storage in wood in landfills: Evidence from reactor studies, Waste Management, 85: 341-350.

  • Large volumes of wood and wood products are deposited in Australian landfills each year.
  • When organic products decay in landfills, the carbon is emitted as carbon dioxide and methane.
  • This paper outlines the findings of a long-term experimental study, where bioreactors were filled with samples of important commercial species in Australia and monitored over time for gas generation.
  • The study showed that Australian landfills represent a reservoir of carbon, with insignificant loss of carbon.

Biomass from forest harvest

Ximenes F, Gardner WD and Kathuria A. (2008) Proportion of above-ground biomass in commercial logs and residues following the harvest of five commercial forest species in Australia, Forest Ecology and Management, 256(3): 335-346.

  • Australian forests are diverse, and the harvest of different species results in variable levels of residue generation.
  • Knowledge on biomass partitioning and harvest residues is important, as it represents a potentially important resource.
  • This study used an innovative methodology which involved weighing trees of various sizes in the field using a purpose-built biomass trailer.
  • Results are presented for five different species of commercial importance in Australia.

Role of biomass in a 100% renewable electricity grid

Li M, Middelhoff E, Ximenes F, Carney C, Madden B, Florin N, Malik A and Lenzen M. (2022) Scenario modelling of biomass usage in the Australian electricity grid, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 180: 106198.

  • Use of biomass for electricity generation in Australia is limited.
  • This study simulates biomass contribution in Clean Grid; a high-resolution GIS-based integrated electricity supply-demand model for simulating the tempo-spatial dispatch of electricity for Australia.
  • The study finds that, as carbon prices increase, bioelectricity will prove to be a cost-effective flexible option compared to other low-carbon and fossil-based flexible options (e.g. coal and gas), with its generation share reaching ~9% - 12% at higher carbon price scenarios.
  • Biomass power plants can be well suited for operating in gap-filling mode to provide flexible power generation and to facilitate grid stability and load balancing.

LCA of wood products in houses

Ximenes F and Grant T. (2013) Quantifying the greenhouse benefits of the use of wood products in two popular house designs in Sydney, Australia, The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18.

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a useful tool to determine the environmental impacts of products and production systems.
  • In this study, we conducted a LCA of the use of wood and wood products in houses typically built in Sydney, with a focus on climate impacts.
  • We altered the original design to quantify the impact of building alternative "timber maximised" options.
  • Maximising the use of timber resulted in a net saving of approximately 30 tonnes of CO2-eq. for both design options studies.

Return to DPI Forestry Snapshot of Key Findings.