Powering the Future, Restoring the Past: An ecological assessment of long-term woody biomass utilization for energy in the McCloud watershed of Northern California
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The forests of the Klamath-Cascade region of California are some of the most diverse and productive coniferous forests in the world. However, decades of fire suppression threaten the region's ecological complexity and the ability of forests to adapt to a changing climate. A biomass power plant sited in the McCloud River watershed could drive forest restoration efforts while leveraging clean and efficient power generation technologies. A successful ecologically-driven comprehensive restoration and management plan for the McCloud watershed could reduce wildfire threat, develop local energy independence and drive regional economic development. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data were extrapolated across the public lands within the watershed using geospatial stand-level data provided by the U.S. Forest Service Region 5. Stands where biomass harvesting was deemed impractical or ecologically harmful were removed from the analysis. The Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) was used to model two different small-diameter stem removal treatments. Over the anticipated 40-year project horizon of a woody biomass power plant, the model predicts an average of between 11,828 to 23,768 bone dry tons (BDT) of biomass could be removed from the watershed annually, providing sufficient fuel to operate a 2.29 to 4.61 megawatt power plant. Such a program would reduce the threat of fire moving into the canopy, but would do little to lessen the forest's ability to sustain a fire once in the canopy. The modeling shows high levels of uncertainty. The causes of this uncertainty, as well as suggestions for future research, are discussed.
CitationGarland, Justin (2013). Powering the Future, Restoring the Past: An ecological assessment of long-term woody biomass utilization for energy in the McCloud watershed of Northern California. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6860.
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Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment