Washington: Emphasis on biofuels as an alternative to conventional fuels would increase carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from forests by 14 percent, researchers said.
The findings challenge the assumptions, based on previous studies, that biofuels from forested sources would be carbon-neutral or even reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The largest and most comprehensive study yet on the effect of biofuel production from forests was undertaken by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University (OSU) and other institutions in Germany and France.
During the past four years, the study examined 80 forest types in 19 eco-regions in Oregon, Washington and California, ranging from temperate rainforests to semi-arid woodlands, according to an OSU statement, the journal Nature Climate Change reports.
"On the West Coast, we found that projected forest biomass removal and use for bioenergy in any form will release more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than current forest management practices," said Tara Hudiburg, doctoral candidate at Oregon, who led the study.
"Until now, there have been a lot of misconceptions about impacts of forest thinning, fire prevention and biofuels production as it relates to carbon emissions from forests," said Beverly Law, a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society and co-author of this study.
"If our ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, producing bioenergy from forests will be counterproductive," said Beverly Law, an ecosystems professor at Oregon.
"Some of these forest management practices may also have negative impacts on soils, biodiversity and habitat. These issues have not been thought out very fully," added Law.
Forests capture a large portion of the carbon emitted worldwide, and some of this carbon is stored in pools such as wood and soil that can last hundreds to thousands of years, the scientists said.