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Increased biomass harvesting for bioenergy

- effects on biodiversity, landscape amenities and cultural heritage values

image of Increased biomass harvesting for bioenergy

Bioenergy is one important form of renewable energy where Finland, Norway and Sweden have considerable potential. Greatly increased use of biomass for energy will, however, have considerable effects on environmental values like biodiversity, landscape appearance, outdoor recreation, and the cultural heritage. This review concludes that positive or marginally negative effects of biomass harvesting are likely for harvesting of logging residues, clearance of trees under power lines, along roads, and from marginal agricultural land, as well as production of energy crops on arable land. Negative effects are likely from harvesting of stumps, more intensive forest cultivation on logged areas, and harvesting of biomass from currently non-commercial forests. The environmental effects of production of biomass from reed canary grass or short rotation forestry will depend on where and how such production takes place.

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Agricultural land

Agriculture in Fennoscandia has undergone revolutionary changes over the last 150 years or so (Gjerdåker 2002). Up until the advent of industrial fertilizers at the end of the 1800s, the production of arable fields was entirely dependent on organic fertilization from manure or plant matter. This had the consequence that large areas outside the arable fields and other intensively managed infields, in forests, mires and mountains, had to be mobilised for grazing and fodder for livestock. This harvesting of biomass for the purpose of food production - as well as the extensive needs for woody material for buildings, fences and energy - had a profound effect on the landscape (Birks et al. 1988, Christensen 2002). In parts of western Norway, for instance, woody biomass was a very scarce resource that was exploited to an extreme degree, leaving a denuded landscape with very few bushes and trees. During the last 100 years the situation has changed profoundly. Thanks to the extensive use of industrial fertilizers, new animal and plant breeds, machinery and chemical pest control, the productivity on the best arable land has increased tremendously. The use of biomass resources from forests, mires and mountains for food production is greatly reduced (although, more sheep are grazing in forests and mountains in Norway than ever before (SSB 1995, 2000)). On the other hand, extensive areas of marginal agricultural land, especially much of the unimproved grasslands but also marginal arable land, have been converted to forest through active afforestation efforts over the last 50 years or more, or simply through a process of spontaneous re-growth of bushes and trees. Much of the agricultural land around cities and towns has also been occupied by urban and suburban sprawl. Due to a parallel process of cultivation of new agricultural land, the total amount of arable land has been fairly stable over the last 100 years in Norway (SSB 1995, 2000), whereas Finland and Sweden have had a reduction in agricultural area over the last few decades (Table 7, Figure 7).

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