Biofuels and land use in Sweden: an overview of land-use change effects
Supported by policies, biofuel production has been continuously increasing worldwide during recent years. However, concerns have been raised that biofuels, often advocated as the future substitute for greenhouse gas (GHG) intensive fossil fuels, may cause negative effects on the climate and the environment. When assessing GHG emissions from biofuels, the production phase of the biofuel crop is essential since this is the phase in which most of the GHG emissions occur during the life cycle of the fuel, often linked to land use and land management. Changes in land use can result from a wide range of anthropogenic activities including agriculture and forestry management, livestock and biofuel production. The report first presents a review of the literature in the different scientific areas related to land use change (LUC) and biofuel production. Knowledge gaps related to LUC is compiled and, a synthesis is developed highlighting major challenges and key findings. Main findings are that (i) deforestation, forest management, and climate change deforestation is a major contributor to GHG emissions and can contribute to soil erosion and carbon stock changes, (ii) albedo changes and the timing of emissions need to be better understood, (iii) to avoid degradation of biodiversity great care must be taken to develop sustainable biofuel production (iv) nutrient leakage and removal of forest residues can influence the biomass growth potential (v) to avoid fertility losses in agricultural soils during biofuel production, crops with low fertilizer needs, high nutrient use efficiency and high yields should be given priority (vi) indirect effects on land use are extremely complex to quantify without great uncertainty (vii) biofuels contribution to rising food prices and poverty even more challenging (viii) biofuel production can create jobs but also interfere with traditional ways of life and recreational values, (ix) to avoid negative effects, biofuel production should be developed in collaboration with the stakeholders involved: farmers, land owners, tourists, and industry. The literature review and synthesis presented in this report shows that land use on this planet is already placing high stress on ecosystems, atmosphere, soils and human life. Because of increased biofuel production, land use change is therefore at risk of aggravating these problems. Conclusions drawn are that the LUC caused by increasing use of biofuels can be negative to various degrees but that drawbacks can be mitigated through policy measures or technology developments. Examples include the cultivation of high-yielding crops, cultivation on abandoned arable land, and effective use of by-products and waste. To explore the opportunities that exist for beneficial land use change, continued responsible and sensitive collaboration between industry, policy-makers, researchers and local communities is a prerequisite.
Land use change
Greenhouse gas emissions