Is energy cropping in Europe compatible with biodiversity? – Opportunities and threats to biodiversity from land-based production of biomass for bioenergy purposes

Elsevier, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 55, August 2013, Pages 73-86
Bas Pedroli, Berien Elbersen, Pia Frederikson, Ulf Grandin, Raimo Heikkila, Paul Henning Krogh, Zita Izakovicova, Anders Johansen, Linda Meiresonne, and Joop Spijker

Based on literature and six country studies (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Slovakia), this paper discusses the compatibility of the EU 2020 targets for renewable energy with conservation of biodiversity.

We conclude that increased demand for biomass for bioenergy purposes may lead to a continued conversion of valuable habitats into productive lands and to intensification, which both have negative effects on biodiversity. On the other hand, increased demand for biomass also provides opportunities for biodiversity, both within existing productive lands and in abandoned or degraded lands. Perennial crops may lead to increased diversity in crop patterns, lower input uses, and higher landscape structural diversity which may all have positive effects on biodiversity.

In production forest opportunities exist to harvest primary wood residues. Removal of these forest residues under strict sustainability conditions may become economically attractive with increased biomass demand.

An additional biomass potential is represented by recreation areas, road-side verges, semi-natural and natural areas and lands which have no other use because they have been abandoned, polluted or degraded.

Whether effects of cropping of biomass and/or removal of biomass has positive or negative impact on biodiversity depends strongly on specific regional circumstances, the type of land and land use shifts involved and the associated management practices in general. However, it is clear that in the six countries studied certain types of biomass crops are likely to be more sustainable than others.