Modelling trade-offs between forest bioenergy and biodiversity

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Globally, biodiversity is declining due to loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat, which undermines ecosystem functioning and therefore threatens also the ability of ecosystems to supply ecosystem services. Moreover, there is a need for adapting to climate change as well as securing the supply of energy, which have led to a shift in energy consumption from fossil fuel to renewables, especially biomass, which in turn put increasing pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity. In Sweden, forest bioenergy has an important role, and high forest biomass production is an important societal objective. Intensified forestry could increase the biomass production through monocultures of native or introduced tree species as well as forest fertilization. However, due to negative effects on natural forest structures and processes, a more intensive forestry could be detrimental to forest biodiversity. The balance between energy demand and the long-term capacity of ecosystems to supply goods and services as well as support biodiversity is therefore crucial. The existing energy models and research have relatively low concerns on land use, landscape and biodiversity, comparing with high enthusiastic on energy economics, climate change and greenhouse gas emission research. Consequently, it would be difficult to provide comprehensive decision support by using only these economy and climate change oriented tools. However, ecological assessment models and multi-criteria approaches exist with great potential for linking with suitable energy models. This will enable the development of more comprehensive decision support tools for assessing future energy scenarios, integrating main policy concerns when assessing renewable energy options. The research was based on a survey on existing energy models and a case study of forest biomass extraction in Kronoberg, a region in southern Sweden. The aim of this project was to develop and test methods for integrated the sustainability assessment of forest biomass extraction for bioenergy purposes by incorporating effects on biodiversity. Forest growth was simulated under two management scenarios: Even-aged-forestry (EAF) and continuous-cover-forestry (CCF), in a time period between 2010-2110. The GIS-based approaches for assessment of biomass impacts on biodiversity involved an ecological network assessment of prioritized ecological profiles across the landscape under the two scenarios.