University of Minnesota is awarded $2.7 million grant for forest biomass research project
Contacts: Becky Beyers, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, (612) 626-5754
Patty Mattern, University News Service, (612) 624-2801, email@example.com
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (11/18/2009) —A new $2.7 million grant from the federal agriculture and energy departments will fund a University of Minnesota-led multistate study of whether forest-based biofuels are viable and sustainable.
The study, led by Anthony D’Amato, an assistant professor in the U of M’s Department of Forest Resources, will involve analyzing the potential ecological and economic costs and benefits of harvesting woody biomass from the more than 50 million acres of forestland in the lake states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Harvesting woody biomass involves collecting and processing the leftover branches and leaves from logging large trees, as well as gathering smaller trees and shrubs from woody areas.
All three states currently have large-scale experiments under way to assess how different levels of woody biomass removal affect forest vegetation, soil nutrients, and carbon cycling over varying lengths of time as well as quantifying how much biomass is available and whether harvesting it makes sense logistically and economically. The newly funded project provides a more regional, comprehensive approach to those questions, D’Amato said, and also will help estimate the amount of fossil-fuel emissions that could be sustainably offset by using woody biomass as fuel.
The northern lake states, with their large tracts of forest land, have been identified as a region with great potential for supplying a woody biomass industry, D’Amato said.
“But the key is to make sure we’re not compromising the long-term sustainability of the benefits we value from forests to achieve short-term benefits,” he said
The grant is part of a $24 million, 12-grant package from the USDA and Department of Energy aimed at researching and developing technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy and other high-value biobased products. Energy secretary Steven Chu said in announcing the grants that the goal of the projects is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent.
Most of the grants are to private industry, but four were made to universities. Each grant recipient must contribute a minimum of 20 percent in matching funds; the U of M’s project is co-funded by the Minnesota Forest Resources Council and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Collaborators on this project include researchers from the University of Wisconsin USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, and University of Missouri.