Biomass Burning Alternatives - Mechanical Logging

This page last reviewed July 7, 2008

A typical forest in California consists of a mixed conifer overstory with an understory of pole timber and sub-merchantable trees.  This frequent California forest scene results in an overstocked stand of trees, which are competing for limited water, sunlight, and nutrients.   These forest stand conditions can promote catastrophic wildfires, and are candidates for Whole Tree and Cut to Length logging operations. 

This photograph shows an overstocked stand of trees in 1988 in Redding, California prior to a biomass harvesting operation.
(Photograph from the California Forest Products Commission)

Only six years after the biomass harvest is completed, the forest is beginning to fill in.   Removal of the excess vegetation has restored vigor to the residual trees and opened the forest to a more pleasing and more productive condition.
(Photograph from the California Forest Products Commission)

Whole Tree and Cut to Length logging operations are efficient techniques available for thinning diseased and suppressed overstory and understory trees.  By removing enough trees to eliminate interlacing crowns and sub-merchantable ladder fuels, the threat of catastrophic wildfire is greatly reduced.  These operations also have the capability to remove a portion of the surface fuels such as cull logs.  One of the main products created from these operations is biomass.  Biomass refers to the organic material left behind after sawlogs and/or pulplogs are harvested.