Biomass Boom - Energy Biosciences Institute


Biomass Boom - Energy Biosciences Institute
threat or opportunity for
southern forests?
increased demand provides an economic boost to privately owned forests,
but may threaten biodiversity in vulnerable ecosystems
By Chris Woolston
In the sandhill forests of west Georgia, long-leaf
pines shade fields of bermuda grass flecked with
blue lupines and chickasaw plums. Blackwater
creeks run over sandy white ground, rare birds like
Bachman’s sparrow flit through the branches, and
even rarer gopher frogs pop out of burrows to ambush insects crawling by. It’s a beautiful spot: an
epicenter of biodiversity.
Bioenergy Connection v 2.3
The sandhills are also important in another way. Like many regions of the southern U.S., they have become an international
source for wood that is being burned to make electricity. The question: Can we balance the economic potential of renewable energy
from southern forests with critical ecosystem services?
For many, this question is a bellwether of sorts. The region is
home to more than 90 percent of the country’s bird species, and
its coastal cypress swamps are crucial to migratory songbirds.
The South is also host to hundreds of species of mammals, fish,
reptiles, and amphibians, which Southern forests shelter while
protecting watersheds and soaking up carbon. They’re also providing energy to homes and cities thousands of miles away. Nearly 20 mills from Florida to Virginia are turning woody biomass
into pellets for burning in utility plants, and at least seven more
are under construction.
According to the findings of the Southern Forest Futures Project, a
report published in 2013, roughly 110 million green tons of southern wood are now harvested for energy production each year. In
2012, 1.7 million tons of southern wood went to utility companies
in Europe, which receive “green” credits for burning or co-firing
wood instead of coal.
Burning wood for energy has raised concerns beyond anything Dr. Robert Abt, a forest economics professor at North Carolina State
seen with more traditional forest industries such as timber and University, says that tapping forests for energy is bound to involve
paper – larger, even,
some compromises.
than the food vs. fuel
“It is now well underUnlike Western forests, which are largely public lands,
controversy plaguing
stood that using fossil
corn and sorghum
nearly 90 percent of the forests of the U.S. South are
fuels as the basis of
crops for bioenergy.
privately owned.
our energy economy
“Out of all of the ishas had significant
environmental conbioenergy, this is one of the most controversial,” says Jody Endres,
carbon intensity in
assistant professor of environmental, natural resources and enerother
natural gas or nugy law at the University of Illinois. “There’s definitely the potential
It should
for environmental damage.”
be no surprise that moving an economy toward a renewable alternative will involve similar tradeoffs.”
Unlike western forests, which are largely public lands, nearly 90
percent of the forests of the South are privately owned by individuals, families, and corporations.
Forests on federal land are protected by an umbrella of laws. For
example, the Renewable Fuel Standard, established by the Environmental Protection Agency, does not consider woody biomass
from federal land an eligible renewable source for biofuels. But
some of those restrictions stop at the federal boundary line. “There
are very few regulations on privately owned forests,” says David
Carr, general counsel for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“You can’t tell land owners what to do with their trees.”
The U.S. South – known as the “wood basket of the world” – has
long been a world-leading producer of timber and wood products.
And like any other rapidly expanding new industry, he says, renewable energy should be carefully monitored.
“While the future of U.S. renewable energy policy is uncertain,
the European Union has committed to 20 percent renewable energy within a short time frame,” Abt says. “The U.S. South, with
its growing inventory of low-cost, privately owned forests and
proximity to Western Europe, is poised to become the dominant
supplier of renewable fuel in the form of pellets. The tradeoffs in
this landscape are quickly moving from a hypothetical modeling
exercise to significant changes on the forest landscape.”
Among the advantages: The business is bringing jobs to areas
ravaged by mill closures. Hundreds of sawmills have closed since
2005, including the largest pulp mill in the South in September
Share of species occurring in the United States that live in the south
source: wear and greis 2002
united states
100%=650 species
100%=287 species
100%=432 species
100%=346 species
rest of
united states
Cover Package / Forest Bioenergy: Is It Sustainable?
2013. Alabama alone has seen a 21 percent decrease in mill capacity and a 43 percent drop in paper manufacturing jobs since 1990.
in 1963 to over 4.1 billion in 2010, despite a near doubling of timber harvest in the region between 1950 and 2000.
Some biomass companies are
“To date, a very small percentalso recycling wood waste that
age of the harvest goes to en“The U.S. South… is poised to become
might otherwise go to a landfill.
ergy,” Wear says. “There’s room
the dominant supplier of renewable fuel
One new tax-subsidized plant,
for growth of bioenergy without
in the form of wood pellets. The tradeoffs
the Gainesville Renewable Enany reduction of biomass.” A
in this landscape are quickly moving from
ergy Center, plans to burn one
slump in the paper industry in
a hypothetical modeling exercise to
million green tons of wood each
recent years has created room
year, including logging leftfor another industry to move
significant changes on the forest landscape.”
overs and city tree trimmings –
in without dramatically increasDR. ROBERT ABT, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
enough to power 70,000 homes,
ing logging, he adds. Other resays Albert Morales, the comsearchers in the Forest Service,
pany’s CFO. Noting that such wood waste is often burned in open the Union of Concerned Scientists, and elsewhere echo his views,
fires, Morales says, “The air is actually cleaner than it would be if noting that “woody biomass” from trees can be sustainable, dependwe weren’t here.”
ing on where and how it is used. (See cover story, page 6).
For now and for the immediate future, the South has plenty of
wood to supply utility companies with pellets and chips, says
David Wear, Ph.D., an economist with the U.S. Forest Service’s
Southern Research Center and a co-leader of the Futures Project.
Standing stock has increased from about 2.5 billion tons of wood
However, some scientists and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) are sounding the warning that harvesting whole trees
for energy could eventually put real stress on forests, including
the seemingly endless expanse of trees in the Southeastern U.S.
Environmental groups in opposition include the Dogwood Alli-
forest biodiversity:
“Managing for Complexity”
By Greg Breining
photo / Klaus Puettmann
in his 11,250-acre forest
“laboratory” near OSU;
Credit: Greg Breining
Bioenergy Connection v 2.3
In the future, land managers, ecologists, and the public may have to
adjust their ideas about diversity.
And what resilience means. And
the value of looking back to see
what a landscape looked like before European settlers appeared
on the scene.
These are some of the themes that concern
Klaus Puettmann, a proponent of “managing for complexity.” Puettmann, himself a
transplant from Germany, is an associate
professor of silviculture at Oregon State
University. This July he took me for a stroll
among the dappled shadows of soaring
Douglas fir in the 11,250-acre McDonaldDunn Research Forest, 15 minutes north
of campus. There, researchers are experimenting on a grand scale of thousands of
acres. They’re documenting how the forest
responds to different management, such
as thinning, cutting trees to open gaps in
the canopy, and planting various species in
ance, a powerful network of more than 70
organizations in the U.S. South, which,
along with the National Resources Defense
Council, is heading a campaign called “Our
Forests Are Not Fuel.” (See page 11)
The growing demand for wood in EU
countries attempting to meet renewable
energy targets is causing environmentalists particular concern. Pellet exports from
North America have tripled since 2006. But
some analysts feel this concern is overblown, contending that the EU does well
supplying itself with bioenergy. The EU-27
countries are the largest global producers
of wood pellets, producing 11.4 million
tons in 2012, almost twice the production
in the U.S. and Canada combined. In 2012,
exports totaled only 1.5 million tons from
the U.S. and 1.4 million tons from Canada.
the understory to create more diversity of
species and structure.
In effect, researchers are asking how to
create more options for an unknown future without diminishing the forest of the
present. “We have questions that require a
lot of space,” says Puettmann. “To address
some of those issues we need bigger experiments. We can work with 300-plus species
on a few hundred acres, and we feel like we
have a strong story to tell.”
Puettmann doesn’t feel particularly obligated to the past. “I don’t see historical
conditions as useful blueprints,” he says.
“We can learn a lot, but they are not the
blueprints.” The forest soaring 150 feet
overhead is a case in point. The 75-yearold Douglas fir provide habitat for nearby
endangered northern spotted owls. Yet,
before European settlement, the ridge Puettmann is walking was open oak savanna,
groomed by frequent fires set by local
tribes. “We have more trees growing here
than ever before,” says Puettmann, “which
makes it really interesting when we talk
about habitat for owls… because we never
had habitat for owls.”
“It’s true that the pellet industry in the
U.S. is growing rapidly,” contends Heather
Youngs, a scientist with the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, “but the actual volumes of material are well within the
production potential.”
“The annual harvest in the Southeastern U.S.
is around 225 million tons and the demand
for U.S. pulp continues to lag,” Youngs says.
“So we’re talking about exporting less than 1
percent of production in this region. Similarly in British Columbia, the other large pellet
region, the Ministry of Forests estimates that
seven million tons of wood harvest residues
and slash are burned there as waste each
year. I just don’t see that as a good use of carbon. Capturing some energy from a portion
of that biomass to offset fossil fuels, whether that is here or in the EU, makes sense.”
Although the EU recognized sustainability
practices in the U.S. earlier this year, crit-
Rather than mimic the past, Puettmann’s
goal is to create a forest of greater “adaptive
capacity,” one that can provide timber, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem services no matter what nature may throw its way. “How
can we set ecosystems up so that they can
react to surprises while still providing clean
water, habitat, spiritual values, and timber?
The resilience discussion to me has always
been a little too much backwards-looking.”
Even the concept of diversity falls short of
what might be needed in the future, he
says. “Species counting as a measure of diversity is nice, but not very insightful. We
decided it’s not really what species there
are, but what species do. So we’re looking
at a mechanistic approach.” Puettmann
and colleagues sorted 300 understory species of fauna by their function as food: Do
they produce berries? Are they pollinated
by insects? How palatable are the leaves?
“Then we looked at our thinning studies
and asked, what do our manipulations do
to those species? Generally, they seem to
increase them in the understory,” he says.
ics charge that some biomass harvesters
logging Southern trees for Europe have
accepted practices that would never be allowed in much of Europe itself.
Many bioenergy producers are located near
already existing tree plantations and use
plantation wood. But in May 2013, contractors supplying both lumber and an Enviva
pellet mill shipping to Europe clear-cut a
stretch of wetlands for logs in a cypress
and tupelo swamp along the Roanoke River in North Carolina, according to a Wall
Street Journal report. Contractors also reported that they had sold Enviva wood from
clearcuts in forests more than 100 years old.
Such practices are legal in uncertified areas of North Carolina and much of the
U.S. But the UK and many other European countries prohibit logging in areas
important for biodiversity, such as bogs
and wetlands, except for purposes of res-
we can set up the forest so that if things
get drier or warmer and we have more
fires, the likelihood that the wildlife functions are maintained and that there is food
for all those (species) is higher in thinned
stands than in unthinned stands. That’s an
example of how we increase the adaptive
capacity—that if the climate changes, the
system will react in a way that is desirable
or acceptable,” he says. “If we start thinking about what diversity does, what species do, rather than just counting species
as an indicator of diversity, I think we can
be more efficient at setting the forest up to
deal with future surprises.”
Messier, Christian, and Klaus J. Puettmann. “Forests
as Complex Adaptive Systems: Implications for Forest
Management and Modelling,” Italian Journal of Forest
and Mountain Environments 66 (3): 249-258, 2011. http://
Puettmann, Klaus J., Coates, David K., and Messier, Christian C. A Critique of Silviculture: Managing for Complexity.
Island Press, 2009.
“The idea is that if you thin, especially if
you protect some of those sensitive species,
Cover Package / Forest Bioenergy: Is It Sustainable?
Forest cover loss to development by county, 2001-2006 (acres)
less than 500
1,000 - 2,499
5,000 - 9,999
500 - 999
2,500 - 4,999
10,000 and greater
Note: Only counties with at least 5% forest cover in 2001 were included in these calculations
Sources: WRI analysis based on NLCD 2006 Land Cover Change Product, USGS, 2011
toration. These restrictions also apply to
most wood for bioenergy sourced from
other countries.
Enviva confirmed the wetlands logging,
telling the Journal that the contractors
were following state-recommended best
practices for sustainable logging and the
landowners would let the forest re-grow.
The company defends its practices as
environmentally sound. “As a company
which uses a natural resource as its only
raw material, Enviva is not only committed to, but obliged to, ensure that sourcing, production, and transport operations
are sustainable,” it asserted in a recent
white paper.
But wetlands are especially fragile habitats,
and it’s difficult to predict exactly how the
forest will recover, says William Conner, a
professor of forestry at Clemson University
in South Carolina. “I’ve seen cases where
forests came back OK, and cases where
they didn’t,” he says.
Although trees do eventually return after
clear cuts, such logging inevitably changes
the biological make-up of the land, Conner
says. For example, water tupelo trees often
Bioenergy Connection v 2.3
take over after clear cuts of cypress forests.
And, he says, many animals, including
woodpeckers and bears, strongly prefer
older forests to the new growth that follows
a clear cut.
Geologist Stanley Riggs, of East Carolina
University, has also asserted that swamp
forests protect against flooding and that
clear-cutting them was tantamount to “destroying a whole eco-system.”
In theory, wood pellet companies could
pledge to use wood only from certified
forests (see Tangled up in Green, page
16). In reality, only a small percentage
of southern forests are certified. As recently as 2011, less than 1 percent of the
forests in North Carolina were covered by
the FSC. In 2013 only 23 percent of all
actively logged forests in the South had
any sort of certification.
But bioenergy demands may create a demand for certification, experts say.
“Until now there have not been markets
where there was a perceived economic advantage to certification,” says Abt. “The European Union sustainability standards are
providing this incentive. Both Enviva and
International Wood Fuels (pellet producers
that depend on hardwoods) have adopted
standards and provided chain-of-custody
documentation that move this important
land base toward certification.”
Abt added that the old-growth clear cuts
reported in North Carolina were likely
an anomaly. “Both pulp mills and pellet
mills buy lower priced and lower-quality
timber. The extra income this provides
could make harvesting economically viable in areas previously unprofitable. But
I wouldn’t expect the low-value products
to drive high-cost logging of old-growth
Ultimately, regulations that give real
protection to southern forests may have
to come from London or Amsterdam,
not Washington or Atlanta. The UK, the
Netherlands, and other countries are currently considering new restrictions for
their supply of wood pellets. If European
countries decide to hold American wood
to higher standards, the bioenergy industry would pose a much smaller threat to
the most fragile ecosystems of the South,
Carr says.
One of the big debates in the bioenergy
world is over the value and drawbacks of
plantations. The Futures Project report
predicts that bioenergy could double the
demand for southern wood in the coming
decades, putting strong pressure on the
region’s forests. Nearly one-fifth of forests
in the South are already pine plantations,
mostly on private land, and a strong demand for bioenergy could nearly double
that percentage by 2060, according to the
Futures Project. That could mean 30 million new acres of tree plantations.
The benefits of plantations for biomass
producers are clear. A uniform feedstock
makes harvesting cheaper and more reliable. It also makes the energy conversion
less challenging. Finally, the growth rate
for trees in plantations is typically higher
than natural stands, which is needed to offset the cost of management. In the southern U.S., pine plantations yield four-fold
more than natural stands.
But the environmental effects are less
clear. Proponents of plantations argue
that increasing productivity on some
intensively managed land could spare
more land for natural reserves. While
some plantations are likely to spring up
on agricultural land, many of them would
likely replace natural forests, according
to the report. That transformation could
reduce habitat for many animals, including woodpeckers and gopher frogs, says
Joseph Pechmann, associate professor of
biology at Western Carolina University.
And according to the Futures Project report, pressure on Southern forests from
bioenergy, urbanization and climate
change could threaten more than 1,000
species of plants and animals in the
South in the coming decades.
While most plantations in the south grow
pines, trees with shorter growth cycles are
candidates for pulp and bioenergy. Some
in the South are looking at eucalyptus, an
Australian tree that has transformed the
pulp industry in Brazil. The trees grow
quickly, which is both a promising feature for energy production and a potential
source of trouble. “Eucalyptus trees are
non-native and extremely invasive,” says
Danna Smith, executive director of the
Dogwood Alliance.
So far, eucalyptus has not received much
traction because sensitivity to cold limits
its productivity in the region. New advances in biotechnology could change
that. Arborgen has developed a genetically
modified eucalypt that tolerates freezing,
increasing the biomass yield 15 to 28 percent. The company, whose motto is “more
trees, less land,” faces strong opposition.
The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
cites “serious concerns about potential impacts on hydrology, soil chemistry, native
biodiversity and ecosystem functions.” The
wildlife division also asserted that waterhungry eucalyptus trees could lower the
water table in already water-stressed areas
– concerns shared with the Forest Service –
and that volatile oils from its leaves might
contribute to “catastrophic firestorms.”
A 2013 report in an international forestry
journal concluded that eucalyptus plantations could grow in the relatively moist
southern coastal plain without threatening
water supplies, but it also cautioned that
the trees should be kept away from sensitive watersheds. The same report noted
that while the trees haven’t yet shown any
tendency to invade native forests in the
South, some seedlings have sprouted beyond the plantations, underlining the need
for caution.
Smith of the Dogwood Alliance, who is an
environmental attorney by training, cautions that the loss of natural forests and
the potential spread of chemically treated
tree plantations is a one-two punch that
threatens biodiversity and water quality in
the South. “We’re talking about an industry that’s just getting started, but there’s
a huge potential for growth,” says Smith.
“The South is already the leading supplier
of wood pellets in the world. We need to be
looking at ways to restore our forests, not
depleting them.”
and an additional 19 million acres between 2020 and 2040. The World Resources Institute has put forth several plans to
“catalyze sustainable stewardship” by using income generated by working forests
to preserve ecosystem services.
Whether natural, managed, or plantation,
some stakeholders contend that “working
forests” may ultimately help preserve bio-
Gail and Philip Jones of Andalusia, Ala.,
who work with the paper and lumber company Georgia Pacific, agree that steward-
photo / Pileated woodpecker- Dave Herr/
U.S. Forest Service. In the south, pileated
woodpeckers are often seen foraging for
carpenter ants in dead trees.
“There’s a way forward, but we have to go
beyond the adversarial paradigm of the last 25 years.
It shouldn’t be industry versus environmental groups.
The way forward is through dialogue.”
diversity. “Since the South’s forests are privately owned, increasing income to forest
landowners has been empirically shown to
increase acres of timberland,” says Abt.
For its part, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that suburban encroachment will
threaten approximately 12 million acres of
southern forests between 1992 and 2020
ship starts with landowners. The Jones
family and another relative have about 400
“working acres” of pine teeming with wildlife, including deer, turkeys, and more than
40 gopher tortoise burrows. The Joneses
have borrowed forest management techniques to improve the wildlife habitat in
their small ecosystem. “We don’t think it’s
a model forest,” Gail Jones has said, “but
Cover Package / Forest Bioenergy: Is It Sustainable?
if someone can learn something from (it),
it’s worth it.”
If the bioenergy industry is going to continue to tap into southern forests, all of
the stakeholders will have to work together to make sure that the forests can
survive, says Illinois professor Endres.
“There’s a way forward, but we have to go
beyond the adversarial paradigm of the
last 25 years,” she says. “It shouldn’t be
industry versus environmental groups.
The way forward is through cooperative
and productive dialogue.”
Tropical Forests,
and Biodiversity
Southern Forest Futures Project, General Technical Report
168, U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station, May
17, 2011, www.srs.fs.
Fox TR, Jokela EJ, and Allen HL, “The development of
pine silviculture in the southern United States,” Journal of
Forestry, Oct/Nov 2007.
“Biomass Plants,” Biomass Magazine, last modified, July
18, 2013.
“Southern Forests for the Future,” World Resources Institute report, March 2010.
Scheck, Justin and Dugan, Ianthe Jeanne, “Europe’s Green
Fuel Search Turns to America’s Forests,” Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2013.
Woodworth, Elizabeth, “Inherent Sustainability & Carbon
Benefits of the U.S. Wood Pellet Industry,” White Paper,
Enviva LP.
“Eucalyptus Beyond its Native Range: Environmental Issues in Exotic Bioenergy Plantations,” International Journal
of Forestry, 2012-2013.
Callaham, Mac, et al. “Survey to Evaluate Escape of Eucalyptus ssp. Seedlings from Plantations in the Southeastern USA,” International Journal of Forestry, Volume
2013, 2013.
Simet, Anna. “Certification Uncertainty: The United Kingdom’s biomass sustainability criteria may impact US biomass exporters, particularly policy requirements for certification,” Biomass Magazine, May 6, 2013.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Comments
on permit application by Arbor-Gen LLC, Doclet No.
APHIS-2008-0059, Feb. 18, 2010.
USDA/U.S. Forest Service: Permit application 08-011100rm and 08-014-101rm received from ArborGen LLC,
Field testing of genetically engineered Eucalyptus grandis
X and Eucalyptus urophylla, Final Environmental Assessment, April 2010.
Renewables 2013 Global Status Report. REN21, Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, 2012.
C.S. Galik, R. Abt, and Y Wu. “Forest Biomass Supply in
the Southeastern United States,” Journal of Forestry, 2009.
Photo on p. 24 courtesy of
Bioenergy Connection v 2.3
In many ways, tropical climates seem ideally suited to produce
biomass for ethanol or pulp mills. Plants grow quickly in the heat
and moisture, providing a huge return on investment. Not surprisingly, more and more tropical land is being converted into
sources of bioenergy. Indonesia, for example, is expected to devote more than 10 million hectares to oil palms, jatropha, cassava
and sugarcane for biofuel production by 2015 , at least double the
land used for biofuel in 2010. About four million of those hectares will be planted with oil palms, a lucrative and controversial
oil crop that can be used for both biodiesel and cooking oil.
Some of these energy crops and plantations are planted on land that had already
been cleared for agriculture, such as rubber plantations. But that’s not always the
case. In recent years, the quest for green energy in the tropics has raised serious
concerns among conservationists, especially where native forests have been razed
for energy crops and plantations.
Although sugarcane ethanol is often blamed for tropical deforestation, the vast
majority of the nearly eight million hectares of sugarcane in Brazil are grown more
than 2,000 km from the Amazon. Even so, in 2010, Brazil fined more than two
dozen companies for illegally clearing 143,000 acres of Atlantic rainforest to plant
sugarcane intended for ethanol.
Although nearly 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest cover has been destroyed
since 1970, Brazil began a crackdown on illegal deforestation in 2008, recording
satellite data of deforested lands and dispatching environmental police to some
endangered areas. The annual rate of forest loss last year was the lowest in 25
years, an 85 percent drop from the peak in 1995. But the deforestation that is occur-
(enough to produce another 400 million tons of oil every year) with a
minimal loss of biodiversity by simply avoiding forested land.
the movement to prevent
deforestation has made some gains:
the annual rate of forests lost last
year was the lowest in 25 years
By Chris Woolston
The location of new plantations and energy crops can also have
strong implications for carbon balance. In theory, oil palms should
be roughly carbon neutral because the trees soak up as much carbon as they release when burned. But removing native forests in
carbon-rich peatlands to make way for plantations releases significant carbon into the air.
A 2011 study in Ecology and Society estimated that it could take 211
years for an oil palm plantation in such areas to be carbon neutral.
And a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund projects that “savannah-ization” and climate change could turn the Amazon from a
net sink to a net source of carbon dioxide during our lifetimes.
The United Nations has developed a program intended to protect
tropical forests and reduce carbon emissions in developing countries. UN-REDD, short for reducing emissions from deforestation
and forest degradation, uses carbon trading as one of its main
tools. But that approach has been ineffective and short-sighted,
says Chris Lang, operator of the site
Photo credit: Tim Laman
ring continues to remove habitat for mammals, birds, and insects,
many of which are endangered or threatened. And in some cases,
the trade-off between forests and biofuels may actually be accelerating climate change, not slowing it down.
A 2008 study published in Conservation Letters found that more
than 50 percent of the oil palms planted in Indonesia and Malaysia
between 1990 and 2005 replaced native forests , triggering a significant loss of biodiversity. By 2010, the journal reported, imperiled
birds on the island of Borneo were 200 times more abundant in
intact forests than on oil palm plantations.
In fact, only about 15 percent of forest plant and animal species remain after native forests are converted to oil palm plantations, according to estimates by Dr. Matthew Potts, an assistant professor
of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley.
Eucalyptus plantations in Brazil are somewhat richer with native
wildlife, but they still take a toll on biodiversity. A 2013 study in
the Journal of Forestry Research found that only about half of the
butterflies, lizards, frogs, and bees that were known to live in the
area could be found on a large plantation.
Going forward, land managers, bioenergy companies, and governments must cooperate to prevent massive tropical deforestation
and instead use available land that has already been cleared, Potts
says. “Stakeholders need to work together to develop the oil palm
sector in a way that minimizes new deforestation,” he adds.
A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that Indonesia could add another 30 million acres of oil palm
Again, Indonesia provides an example of the problems at hand. Norway has pledged $1 billion to support REDD in that country. To get
the bulk of that money, Indonesia will have to show that it has reduced
the rate of deforestation. But as Lang says, “Indonesia can make … a
lot more money clearing the forest, selling the timber, and growing
palm oil than it can waiting for a billion dollars from Norway.”
Finding ways to balance ecosystem services against social and
economic development is especially challenging. As people in
the developing world strive to improve their standard of living,
pressure on native ecosystems is bound to increase. Partnerships
to implement sustainability standards – including biodiversity
and carbon accounting – is one promising route. In this strategy,
groups like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm and the Council
for Sustainable Biomass Production pair industry leaders with
environmental groups to encourage responsible development
and transparency.
Wisnu Carokoetnal et al. “Policy and institutional frameworks for the development of
palm oil-based biodiesel in Indonesia,” Center for International Forestry Research, 2011.
Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilrove, “Is oil palm agriculture really destroying tropical biodiversity?” Conservation Letters, May 15, 2008.
David R. Edwards, et al. “Wild-life-friendly oil palm plantations fail to protect biodiversity
effectively,” Conservation Letters, Volume 3, 2010.
Pedro Luis Bernardo da Rocha, et al. “What is the value of eucalyptus monocultures for the
biodiversity of the Atlantic forest?” Journal of Forestry Research, June 2013.
Wouter Achten, et al. “Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia,” Ecology and Society,
Vol. 16, 2011.
Interview with Chris Lang, REDD-Monitor: Carbon Markets and REDD in Southeast Asia,, accessed Oct. 1, 2013
Cover Package / Forest Bioenergy: Is It Sustainable?