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The realisable potential supply of woody biomass from forests in the European Union

Verkerk, Pieter Johannes, Anttila, Perttu, Eggers, Jeannette, Lindner, Marcus, Asikainen, Antti
Forest ecology and management 2011 v.261 no.11 pp. 2007-2015
European Union, attitudes and opinions, biomass, branches, energy, environmental factors, forest inventory, forest management, forest thinning, forests, models, private forestry, soil productivity, stemwood, stumps, Europe
Forests are important for providing wood for products and energy and the demand for wood is expected to increase. Our aim was to estimate the potential supply of woody biomass for all uses from the forests in the European Union (EU), while considering multiple environmental, technical and social constraints. The potential woody biomass supply was estimated for the period 2010–2030 for stemwood, residues (branches and harvest losses), stumps and other biomass (woody biomass from early thinnings in young forests). We estimated the theoretical biomass potential from recent, detailed forest inventory data using the EFISCEN model. Constraints reducing the availability of woody biomass were defined and quantified for three mobilisation scenarios (high, medium, low). Finally, the theoretical potentials from EFISCEN were combined with the constraints to assess the realisable potential from EU forests. The realisable potential from stemwood, residues, stumps and other biomass was estimated at 744 millionm³yr⁻¹ overbark in 2010 and could range from 623 to 895 millionm³yr⁻¹ overbark in 2030, depending on the mobilisation scenario. These potentials represented 50–71% of the theoretical potential. Constraints thus significantly reduced the biomass potentials that could be mobilised. Soil productivity appeared to be an important environmental factor when considering the increased use of biomass from forests. Also the attitude of private forest owners towards increased use of forest biomass can have an important effect, although quantifying this is still rather difficult. The analysis showed that it is possible to increase the availability of forest biomass significantly beyond the current level of resource utilisation. Implementing these ambitious scenarios would imply quite drastic changes in forest resource management across Europe.