High-resolution spatial modelling of greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change to energy crops in the United Kingdom

Mark Richards, Mark Pogson, Marta Dondini, Edward O Jones, Astley Hastings, Dagmar Nadja Henner, Matthew J. Tallis, Eric Casella, Robert W. Matthews, Paul A Henshall, Suzanne Milner, Gail Taylor, Niall P McNamara, Jo U Smith, Pete Smith

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Abstract

We implemented a spatial application of a previously evaluated model of soil GHG emissions, ECOSSE, in the United Kingdom to examine the impacts to 2050 of land-use transitions from existing land use, rotational cropland, permanent grassland or woodland, to six bioenergy crops; three ‘first-generation’ energy crops: oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet, and three ‘second-generation’ energy crops: Miscanthus, short rotation coppice willow (SRC) and short rotation forestry poplar (SRF). Conversion of rotational crops to Miscanthus, SRC and SRF
and conversion of permanent grass to SRF show beneficial changes in soil GHG balance over a significant area. Conversion of permanent grass to Miscanthus, permanent grass to SRF and forest to SRF shows detrimental changes in soil GHG balance over a significant area. Conversion of permanent grass to wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet and SRC and all conversions from forest show large detrimental changes in soil GHG balance over most of the United Kingdom, largely due to moving from uncultivated soil to regular cultivation. Differences in net GHG emissions between climate scenarios to 2050 were not significant. Overall, SRF offers the greatest beneficial impact on soil GHG balance. These results provide one criterion for selection of bioenergy crops and do not consider GHG emission increases/decreases resulting from displaced food production, bio-physical factors (e.g. the energy density of the crop) and socio-economic factors (e.g. expenditure on harvesting equipment). Given that the soil GHG balance is dominated by change in soil organic carbon (SOC) with the difference among Miscanthus, SRC and SRF largely determined by yield, a target for management of perennial energy crops is to achieve the best possible yield using the most appropriate energy crop and cultivar for the local situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627–644
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Volume9
Issue number3
Early online date23 Apr 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Keywords

  • bioenergy
  • carbon
  • greenhouse gas
  • land-use change
  • Miscanthus
  • short rotation coppice
  • short rotation forestry
  • soil

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