N.C. State Study: Harvesting For Wood Pellets Has No Impact On Wildlife

Harvesting wood debris from areas that have been clear-cut of timber does not affect the animals that live there, according to a study from researchers at N.C. State University. Chris Moorman, a professor of forestry and environmental resources, and his students spent four years cataloging small animals such as mice, toads, bugs and mourning doves […]

Harvesting wood debris from areas that have been clear-cut of timber does not affect the animals that live there, according to a study from researchers at N.C. State University.

Chris Moorman, a professor of forestry and environmental resources, and his students spent four years cataloging small animals such as mice, toads, bugs and mourning doves at loblolly pine plantations. They found that the populations in clear-cut sites were unaffected regardless of how much wood debris was removed.

This low-value wood, or “biomass,” left over from logging is pulverized to make wood pellets that are used as a carbon-friendly alternative to coal in Europe and in parts of the United States. Wood is classified as a renewable energy source by the European Union, which burns wood pellets from the southeastern U.S. to comply with the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The biomass left after a forest has been clear-cut supports a host of critters. It is home to bugs at the bottom of the food chain, which are eaten by burrowing shrews and amphibians and small reptiles such as salamanders. Some of the biomass is a fertilizer for smaller vegetation that feeds birds and rodents. The cold-blooded citizens of the sites make their homes in the wet, woody debris left by logging.

Moorman and his students wanted to know if removing large amounts of this biomass to make wood pellets could hurt the communities that spring up after the timber is chopped down. Moorman says clear-cut logging has a well-known effect on biodiversity by displacing forest-dwellers such as deer and nesting birds. Less understood was the effect of clearing the debris left after logging. Ecologists have predicted that harvesting biomass would remove potential habitats and sources of food from clear-cut areas, causing animal populations to fall.

From The News & Observer: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article87658682.html

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