Thursday, August 26, 2010
Sustainability impact assessment of increasing resource use intensity in forest bioenergy production chainAbstract
Changing forest management practices towards more intensive biomass utilization for energy purposes will affect the sustainability of resource management. The Tool for Sustainability Impact Assessment was applied to evaluate the environmental, social, and economic sustainability impacts of the stepwise increased extraction of forest biomass of three typical Scandinavian Scots pine bioenergy production chains (BPCs). The assessed sources of the woody biomass were pellets as a by-product of the sawmilling industry, wood chips deriving from early whole-tree harvesting, and residues from final cuttings. Three commercially practiced BPCs were compared. By the additional extraction of biomass for heat production, the employment increased by 0.6 person-years 1000 m−3 solid wood chips, while there was a decrease in the costs and greenhouse gases emitted per unit of heat consumed. Furthermore this practice did not only add positive socio-economic but also positive environmental impacts on sustainability, particularly on the greenhouse gas balance and the energy efficiency ratio (input to output ratio along the BPC), which was determined to be 1–24. Potential drawbacks, on the other hand, include decreasing nutrient returns to the soil and the associated potential reduction in future stand productivity. Fertilization might be needed to maintain sustainable forest growth on poor sites.
WENDELIN WERHAHN-MEES, TARU PALOSUO, JORDI GARCIA-GONZALO, DOMINIK RÖSER, MARCUS LINDNER