Ecology, Economy, and Politics of Resource-Extraction Ecosystems

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Forest Products


Readings for Week 3: Forests and Forest Products in Washington

This week we will talk about forests as sources of energy and ecosystem services, as well as read about the history, culture, and forestry of the Yakama Nation, in preparation for the Saturday, April 20 field trip.

Tuesday, April 16

Today we cover four topics, three dealing with forests as sources of energy and one dealing with forests as sources of ecosystem services.

Background: Biofuels and the world energy budget
First have a look at some statistics on world and US energy use, by dinking around on the International Energy Agency 's Key World Energy Statistics and the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Review . Pay particular attention to the sources of energy and the proportion of biomass energy, which is growing but still small. When you've finished reading and dinking, but in no event later than 7:00 a.m. today, you should post a short piece (200-300 words, unless you're really inspired) on what you've learned from reading about world energy trends and how it makes you feel. We will not spend class time specifically on this topic; it is background that you need to know when you consider the role of forests in energy production.

Class segment 1: Two kinds of biomass energy
There are two basic kinds of biofuel production, if we look at it from a cross-scale ecosystem point of view.
First look at two good overviews of biofuels, and notice the difference between the two most important types of biofuels: those generated from crops grown specifically for that purpose, and those generated from residues of other kinds of operations: For the first section of the class today, two volunteers will report to the class on the question of whether there is any reason to produce crops for biofuels or not.

Class segment 2: Forest residues as biofuels
In this unit on forest products, we are primarily concerned with the second kind of biofuels: those generated from residues. We will have an opportunity to see this kind of biofuel production both on our April 20 trip to the Yakama Nation and on our June 1 trip to the Lynden dairy farming region. To get a good idea of these and where they fit in both our energy budget and our forest ecology, read
  • Matti Parikka's Global Biomass Fuel Resources.
  • David Nicholls, et al.'s overview of the available biomass residue resources in the forests of the western United States.
  • Jianbang Gan's comparison of biomass with coal as energy sources and the way their use might vary depending on different kinds of policy and fiscal conditions.
For the second section of today's class, two more volunteers will report on the question of how much we could conceivably rely on residue biofuels to meet our energy needs as we transition away from fossil fuels.

Class segment 3: Forests and ecosystem services
Here we take time to introduce the concept of ecosystem services, by reading the two scholarly articles from a special issue of Ecological Economics volume 69 (2010): Two final volunteers will report to the class on the arguments about ecosystem services and whether or not they can be quantified and commodified. They should summarize the arguments both for and against quantification and commodification.

Thursday, April 18

For the second section of the class, we turn our attention to uses of a particular forest--again, wood, energy, and ecosystem services, pointing toward our Yakama field trip. First learn something about the Yakma Nation: