Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral

Ernst Detlef Schulze*, Christian Körner, Beverly E. Law, Helmut Haberl, Sebastiaan Luyssaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Owing to the peculiarities of forest net primary production humans would appropriate ca. 60% of the global increment of woody biomass if forest biomass were to produce 20% of current global primary energy supply. We argue that such an increase in biomass harvest would result in younger forests, lower biomass pools, depleted soil nutrient stocks and a loss of other ecosystem functions. The proposed strategy is likely to miss its main objective, i.e. to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, because it would result in a reduction of biomass pools that may take decades to centuries to be paid back by fossil fuel substitution, if paid back at all. Eventually, depleted soil fertility will make the production unsustainable and require fertilization, which in turn increases GHG emissions due to N 2O emissions. Hence, large-scale production of bioenergy from forest biomass is neither sustainable nor GHG neutral.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-616
Number of pages6
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Volume4
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Keywords

  • Bioenergy
  • Biomass
  • Ecosystem function
  • Forestry
  • Greenhouse gas emission
  • Human appropriation of net primary production

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