Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Budgets for Wisconsin Forests and its Forest Product Chains

Stith T. Gower and Douglas Ahl
Department of Forest Ecology
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Wisconsin Dept. of Administration

Wisconsin Focus on Energy
Environmental Research program


The objectives of the study are: (1) quantify the carbon content in forest vegetation, detritus, and mineral soil for forests in Wisconsin, (2) model and evaluate the carbon budgets for three model forests, (3) conduct life cycle analyses of forest product chains to identify management and industrial processes that can be modified to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration, (4) expand previous analyses to include all forests in Wisconsin, and (5) incorporate ecophysiological elevated CO2 and warming mechanisms into an ecosystem process model and simulate forest C budgets and forest product chains for future environment. We will simulate future forest carbon budgets using a modified version of the ecosystem process model, IBIS. We will incorporate cutting-edge forest ecosystem net CO2 exchange responses from results obtained by the Free Air CO2 Exchange (FACE) and forest ecosystem warming studies that Gower directs or has participated in. We will use the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest, Northern Highland American Legion (NHAL) State Forest, and StoraEnso North America (SENA) forests in Northern Wisconsin as model forests in Year 1 to evaluate all aspects of the study because they are representative of the major source of timber for Wisconsin and include a broad range of forest ownership. We have extensive experience with field measurements (Haynes and Gower 1994, Fassnacht and Gower 1997, 1998, 1999, Burrows et al. 2002), ecosystem modeling (Running and Gower 1991), and remote sensing (Fassnacht et al. 1997, Ahl et al. 2003) for these forests. The modeling and remote sensing tools we propose to use were developed during the Chequamegon Ecosystem Atmosphere Study - a multi-organizational research effort funded by NASA and NOAA to quantify carbon and water exchange between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. We will model forest ecosystem carbon budgets using IBIS, that Gower helped develop (Kucharik et al. 1999), and has been for forests in northern Wisconsin. We will address objective 3 using life cycle analysis (LCA); Gower has just completed a LCA study funded by a major paper and dimensional lumber company, a magazine publisher and a retail do-it-yourself store that sells dimensional lumber. LCA studies quantify the sources and magnitudes of GHG emissions. Objectives 3 & 4 will be used to identify opportunities for forest and forest product chains where GHG emissions can be mitigated, carbon sequestration can be increased, and waste disposal practices of end products can be modified.