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Forest Biomass Network


Viktor Bruckman, Austria


Renewable resources are a key element of a sustainable future for our planet. They play a vital role in recent scientific approaches to tackle the challenges of global change, which includes population dynamics as well as climate change and environmental concerns. The term "bioeconomy" gained increasing popularity within the last few years, especially since the European Commission adopted the bioeconomy strategy in February 2012. However, the challenge associated with the transition from the current, fossil based resource towards more renewable pathways of resource acquisition are drivers and interconnected at global scales. According to World Bank data for 2012, the share of arable land is close to 11% of the total terrestrial land area, while that of forests is 31%. While biomass produced in agricultural systems is largely used to produce food and animal feed products, only a limited share (e.g. harvest residuals) may be used as feedstock for other purposes. This suggests that the largest potential for biomass as a resource for industrial feedstock materials and energy lies in forest ecosystems (both natural and planted forests), from a global perspective. The ultimate challenge for a sustainable management of these resources is to assess and characterize the indispensable environmental (ecosystem) services that forests provide for the entire world's population, in terms of both tangible and intangible items. Forests represent some of the world's most sensitive but at the same time most productive ecosystems and therefore it is necessary to provide a sound scientific basis in order to develop guidelines that protect forest land from degradation and over-exploitation and finally from a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Biomass is also a key element of global attempts to mitigate climate change. Since the last IPCC report it became clear that the 2°C target requires more active carbon sequestration strategies (such as negative emissions, or BECS), that can be realized by utilizing biomass with a subsequent long-term storage of carbon (e.g. in final products).

In this context, the proposed task force objective is to build on this success and initiate a global network of forest experts in the field of forest biomass in order to share state-of the art knowledge and expertise across scientific disciplines including natural science as well as social science and policy. The network should remain active after the actual period of the proposed Task Force. The nexus between basic and applied research will be addressed by including aspects of development cooperation and by organizing events with transdisciplinary character.

Background and objectives

The TF activities will be framed by three major objectives, which are listed below:

  1. Supporting the establishment of a regional network on Bioenergy from Biomass in the ACMECS countries (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar) – Research efforts will be coordinated for a sustainable production of energy in the member countries which will provide policy implications on energy production and consumption and measures taken in order to ensure sustainability. This includes also potential consequences of increased biomass utilization (especially burning) on air quality which will be addressed in cooperation with RG 7.01. Results can also be used to support the REDD+ policy process in this region by inviting responsible government officials to the planned meetings and on-line discussions. In addition, the implementation of certification schemes for sustainable biomass production (e.g. FSC / PEFC) will be discussed.

  2. The recently established agreement between the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the European Geosciences Union (EGU) will be strengthened through the proposed task force. The targeted organization of specific sessions in the fields of Resources and Energy will be focused and coordinated by the task-force. A scientific session aiming at discussing recent developments will be organized at least once per year at the EGU annual general assemblies.

  3. The Task Force will publish reports, scientific papers and policy briefs with a focus on sustainable biomass potentials from forests and forest plantations and constraints with a focus on the supply chain of a biomass system. Existing guidelines for biomass harvesting, as well as guidelines for the recycling of nutrients (e.g. via ash from industrial biomass boilers) will be reviewed. The potentials for negative carbon emissions in view of climate change mitigation will be addressed where possible. Special emphasis will be addressed to consequences of biomass burning on the environment (in specific on air pollution and on the carbon cycle) on regional and global scales. This enables the proposed Task Force to build strong interdivisional links to other Task Forces, in particular the TF Climate Change and Forest Health.