Evaluating forest biomass recovery in south central Alabama pine plantations
Improved use of forest biomass has been presented as a viable option to satisfy a portion of the demand for sustainable alternative sources of energy. Yet, there are considerable gaps in our understanding related to the efficiencies of current state-of-the-art forest biomass recovery systems. Southern pine plantation biomass stands typically exhibit higher stand densities and smaller-diameter trees than conventional stands, which, in turn, may result in reduced recovery efficiencies. In this study, the impact of new harvest systems for biomass recovery was investigated in typical southern pine plantation biomass harvests. Specifically, spatial and temporal effects on residue distribution were examined following biomass harvest of 14- and 24-year-old loblolly pine plantations. Preharvest total standing biomass for the younger site at 90 t ac–1 (220 t hectare–1) was half that of the older site at 160 t ac–1 (390 t hectare–1). Although the analysis detected no significant temporal effects on residue distributions, the preharvest condition exhibited 100 percent ground cover, whereas postharvest conditions had nearly 20 percent of the area designated as bare. Two of the five residue classifications, light debris and litter-herbaceous, were found to have a significantly higher incidence of occurrence than the other residue classifications on the sites based on a multinomial regression. In general, we found recovery efficiencies for both sites of 80 percent or greater for both methods of determination, by destructive sampling and based on load tickets.