, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 621-635

Assessing Environmental Impacts of Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) Expansion: Model Definition and Preliminary Results

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Abstract

Short rotation coppice (SRC) systems can play a role as feedstock for bioenergy supply contributing to EU energy and climate policy targets. A scenario depicting intensive arable crop cultivation in a homogeneous landscape (lacking habitat structures) was compared to a scenario including SRC cultivation on 20 % of arable land. A range of indicators was selected to assess the consequences of SRC on soil, water and biodiversity, using data from the Rating-SRC project (Sweden and Germany). The results of the assessment were presented using spider diagrams. Establishment and use of SRC for bioenergy has both positive and negative effects. The former include increased carbon sequestration and reduced GHG emissions as well as reduced soil erosion, groundwater nitrate and surface runoff. SRC can be used in phytoremediation and improves plant and breeding bird biodiversity (exceptions: grassland and arable land species) but should not be applied in dry areas or on soils high in toxic trace elements (exception: cadmium). The scenario-based analysis was found useful for studying the consequences of SRC cultivation at larger scales. Limitations of the approach are related to data requirements and compatibility and its restricted ability to cover spatial diversity and dynamic processes. The findings should not be generalised beyond the representativeness of the data used.