Global warming potentials of stemwood used for energy and materials in Southern Finland: differentiation of impacts based on type of harvest and product lifetime

Tuomas Helin (Corresponding Author), Hannu Salminen, Jari Hynynen, Sampo Soimakallio, Saija Huuskonen, Kim Pingoud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Wood harvesting in boreal forests typically consists of sequential harvesting operations within a rotation: a few thinnings and a final felling. The aim of this paper is to model differentiated relative global warming potential (GWP) coefficients for stemwood use from different thinnings and final fellings, and correction factors for long-lived wood products, potentially applicable in life cycle assessment studies. All thinnings and final fellings influence the development of forest carbon stocks. The climate impact of a single harvesting operation is generated in comparison with no harvesting, thus encountering a methodological problem on how to handle the subsequent operations. The dynamic forest stand simulator MOTTI was applied in the modelling of evolution of forest carbon stocks at landscape level in Southern Finland. The landscape-level approach for climate impact assessment gave results similar to some stand-level approaches presented in previous literature that included the same forest C pools and also studied the impacts relative to the no-harvest situation. The climate impacts of stemwood use decreased over time. For energy use, the impacts were higher or similar in the short term and 0-50% lower in the midterm in comparison with an identical amount of fossil CO2. The impacts were to some extent (approximately 20-40%) lower for wood from intermediate thinnings than for wood from final fellings or first thinnings. However, the study reveals that product lifetime has higher relative influence on the climate impacts of wood-based value chains than whether the stemwood originates from thinnings or final fellings. Although the evolution of future C stocks in unmanaged boreal forests is uncertain, a sensitivity analysis suggests that landscape-level model results for climate impacts would not be sensitive to the assumptions made on the future evolution of C stocks in unmanaged forest. Energy use of boreal stemwood seems to be far from climate neutral.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-345
JournalGlobal Change Biology: Bioenergy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • boreal forest
  • climate impacts
  • forest bioenergy
  • forest growth model
  • global warming potential
  • landscape
  • long-lived wood products
  • stemwood
  • thinning wood


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