Responsible forestry sits at the centre of sustainable biomass. The role of biomass in reducing carbon emissions depends on us being able to manage the carbon stock of the forest (or other supply resources). Put simply, if the carbon stock goes down, we’re not doing our job.
The UK sources most of its biomass from Canada, the south-eastern USA and the EU – all of which are growing their forest resources. By combining healthy, active markets for wood products with world-leading regulations, forests in these areas are turning the tide on deforestation. Bioenergy is a key part of that, providing additional revenues for landowners and foresters, and incentivising responsible forestry.
But it isn’t just about how much wood you grow. Healthy soil – with vital biodiverse, nutrient-rich and carbon-sequestering properties – is worth preserving in itself, but also essential to maximising tree growth rates. And maximum growth rates are part of the equation on sustainable biomass.
A healthy soil system – or pedosphere, as it’s known – can be maintained through responsible forestry. Part of this process is using ‘slash’ (leftover materials from forest harvesting) to fertilise and nourish the soil ecosystem. Knowing the right amount to leave behind, without risking infestations, disease or even forest fires, is a difficult balance and reliant on professionals who can monitor the forest landscape.
But this forestry depends on a) good regulations, both locally and via the supply chains of the industries operating in a forest and b) real incentives for landowners to invest in their forests’ health. These incentives come in the form of diverse, predictable income streams from different industries. Bioenergy demand helps to provide both the regulations and economic incentives that are needed for healthy forests. The proof is in the forests that are experiencing extraordinary long-term growth in America, Canada and Europe. We should encourage these working forests through our own energy system.
You can find out more about soil carbon here.