Biomass energy and the environment
Sir , – Further to “Sourcing of wood pellets in US could destroy forests, say critics” (January 6th), there is no credible evidence to indicate that increasing wood pellet production in the southern United States is resulting in increased forest loss.
These are actively forested areas and the market for wood pellets means that residues from the forestry industry are put to good use. Pellets are typically composed of tree tops, limbs, and sawmill residues, misshapen and diseased trees not suitable for other use, as well as thinnings, ie small trees that have been removed from working forests to maximise the growth of the remaining trees.
Wood or biomass must be sourced from sustainably managed forests where biodiversity is protected, forest productivity is maintained, and overall forest growth is higher than the harvest.
Additionally, the priority of foresters is the higher-value timber that can be used, for example, in building and furniture production, rather than the much lower-value waste wood used for electricity generation.
The net annual increase in EU forest cover is 322,800 hectares, equivalent to over 1,440 football pitches of new forests every day. Likewise, the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service says that the forest cover has increased significantly compared to 50 years ago.
This is partly due to increased demand for wood energy, which brings undermanaged forests into active management, benefitting woodland growth, woodland biodiversity, wildlife, and local economies. The carbon contained in forests has therefore increased in the US and EU. – Yours, etc,
Dr NINA SKORUPSKA,