Has pellet production affected SE US forests?
by Esther Parish, Virginia Dale, Keith Kline
Wood pellet export volumes from the Southeastern United States (SE US) to Europe have been growing since 2009, leading to concerns about potential environmental effects. Biomass pellets are intended to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming by replacing coal in European power plants. Yet, stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean worry that increased pellet production might lead to changes in SE US forests that harm water and soil quality, or endanger sensitive species—such as birds, tortoises, and snakes—and their habitats. Stakeholders have also expressed concern that increasing pellet demand might accelerate a fifty-year trend in which naturally regenerating mixed hardwood and pine forests native to the SE US are being replaced by plantation pine forests.