State-funded study will reassess Alaska forest biomass resources

By Luke Geiver | June 08, 2012

A University of Alaska Fairbanks biomass project will reevaluate a central Alaskan forest network through the state-funded Boreal Alaska: Learning, Adaptation and Production (BAK LAP) project. 

The $1 million granted will be used to upgrade current research facilities, and conduct more research into the potential of current forest biomass resources from the forest, which was established in the 1980s, as well as update resource databases. Because the federal government terminated its main forestry research lab in boreal Alaska 20 years ago, the state is now responsible for maintaining forestry research facilities.

“Species and management practices that were appropriate for the circumstances of decades ago when the installations were established need to be re-evaluated for the new products and environment of today,” said Glenn Juday, project director and professor of forest ecology at the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. “Collecting these measurements and conducting evaluations will provide the basis for identifying optimum management practices for the new products, especially biomass, in today’s shifting environment.” New biomass utilization facilities also contribute to a local community’s needs, Juday added, helping avoid forest management practices likely to fail.

The biomass research update project is not the only project funded by the state. Alaska is also expanding an existing K-12 educational and outreach program aimed at developing math and science skills through study of the biomass industry.

In a letter of support for the educational program, Todd Poage, superintendent of the Alaska Gateway School District, said he has witnessed the excitement and support for the installation of a biomass boiler at a school in his district. “Alaskans want to be responsible, independent citizens with local solutions to energy issues that promote the use of Alaska’s forests,” Poage said. “We need the answers that BAK LAP will provide.”