A brand new study (Nov 27th, 2017) revealed that there is enough consensus for conclusive evidence that perennial bioenergy crops can mitigate climate change emissions with very high savings of CO2 when cultivated on marginal lands.

The study was published in Global Change Biology, an open source and highly reputed scientific journal, with impact factor 4.6 and peer reviewed by scientific parties. The research article was authored by scientists from Colorado State University, USDA-ARS, Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, University of Manchester,  University of São Paulo (Brazil), University of Antwerp, Wilrijk, Belgium, Aberystwyth University and Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster (UK).

Authors concluded that the GHG balance of perennial bioenergy crop cultivation will often be favorable, with maximum GHG savings achieved where crops are grown on soils with low carbon stocks and conservative nutrient application, accruing additional environmental benefits such as improved water quality.

Many climate stabilization scenarios suggest that the wide-scale deployment of bioenergy systems augmented with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) will be necessary to correct emissions overshoot and keep future atmospheric GHG concentrations at levels below that implied in the <2 °C target (430–480 ppm CO2-eq)

The strength of evidence “for” and “against” on 6 statements was explored through consideration of exemplar projects during workshops, and through additional literature review and data analysis. The statements explored are as follows:

  1. N2O emissions from perennial crops strongly depend on the previous land use with the greatest risk of large emissions during crop establishment.
  2. Planting perennial bioenergy crops on low carbon soil will minimize soil carbon losses in the short-term and promote soil carbon sequestration in the long-term.
  3. Variability in soil carbon stock changes influences the life-cycle GHG balance of bioenergy production much more than variability in nitrogen-related emissions over most common assessment timescales.
  4. Perennial bioenergy crops can provide substantial climate mitigation when used to replace fossil fuels but land-use tensions must be mitigated.
  5. Perennial bioenergy crops marginally reduce water availability at landscape scale but improve water quality through reduced nitrate leaching.
  6. Ecosystem process-based models are essential for assessing bioenergy viability and environmental performance at landscape and regional scales, but they have only recently been applied to evaluate specific land-use policies and strategies.

napier grass Considered in a whole life-cycle context, these approaches have delivered robust evidence that bioenergy produced from dedicated perennial feedstocks can deliver significant GHG savings compared to fossil fuel systems.

The research synthesized in this new article demonstrates there is a mature and increasingly comprehensive evidence base on the environmental benefits and risks of bioenergy cultivation which can support the development of a diverse and sustainable bioenergy industry.

Download paper from here.