Land use implications of increased biomass production identified by GIS-based suitability and yield mapping for Miscanthus in England
The need for climate change mitigation and to meet increasing energy demands has led to a rise in the land area under bioenergy crops in many countries. There are concerns that such large-scale land conversion will conflict with food production and impact on the environment. Perennial biomass crops could be grown on more marginal agricultural land. However, for sustainable solutions, biomass yields will need to be sufficient and the wider implications of land-use changes considered.
Here, focusing on Miscanthus in England as an example, we combined an empirical model with GIS to produce a yield map and estimated regional energy generation potentials after masking out areas covered by environmental and socio-economic factors which could preclude the planting of energy crops. Agricultural land quality and the distributions of currently grown food crops were then taken into account. Results showed that: (i) regional contrasts occur in the importance of different factors affecting biomass planting; (ii) areas with the highest biomass yields co-locate with food producing areas on high grade land, and; (iii) when such high grade land and unsuitable areas are excluded, a policy-related scenario for increased planting on 350,000 ha utilised 4-28% (depending on the region) of lower grade land and would not necessarily greatly impact on UK food security. We conclude that the GIS-based yield and suitability mapping described here can help identify important issues in bioenergy generation potentials and land use implications at regional or finer spatial scales that would be missed in analyses at the national level.
Lovett, Andrew et al (2009) Land use implications of increased biomass production identified by GIS-based suitability and yield mapping for Miscanthus in England. Bioenergy research. 2 (1-2), pp. 17-28 Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag.
Lovett Andrew et al. Land use implications of increased biomass production identified by GIS-based suitability and yield mapping for Miscanthus in England. Bioenergy research 2009; 2 (1-2): 17-28.