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How Now Round Crown? Predicting the Energy Future of Tree Crowns

This article is from Issue Bioenergy - Vol. 9 No. 1.

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Pine trees cover much of the Southeastern United States. When older pine trees are cut for making wood products, only the trees’ boles are used. The scientists in this study wondered if there might be a use for the trees’ crowns as well. In particular, they wondered whether the trees’ crowns might one day be a source of energy. 

Welcome to the Bioenergy edition

Note to Educators 

Bioenergy Lesson Plan

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Education Standards Correlations


"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists try to solve problems that are important to society. In some cases, scientists try to solve problems before they are even recognized as problems. In this study, for example, the scientists were aware that energy prices were continuing to rise. They reasoned that, at some point, it might become economically possible to use tree crowns for wood energy in the Southeastern United States (figure 1). The scientists developed a study to better understand how much energy is available from tree crowns. As you can see, science is not just about solving today’s problems. Scientists also look into the future and anticipate future problems that may need to be solved.
"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Trees are a valuable resource for the planet. They help to keep the air clean and hold soil in place. Trees absorb and hold carbon to reduce global climate change. They provide homes for animals and other plants. Trees are also renewable, meaning they can be planted, grown, and used for human needs. Some forests are planted and managed to eventually be used for wood products. Examples of wood products include furniture, lumber, and plywood. When a forest is cut down to be used for wood products, only the tree’s trunk is used. Foresters call the tree’s trunk its bole. The rest of the tree, which is mostly the tree’s crown, is left behind. The crowns are usually piled and burned or left to decay (figure 2). In this way, the crown’s nutrients are returned to the soil to nourish the next generation of trees (figure 3).