The role of soils in provision of energy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Soils have both direct and indirect impacts on available energy, but energy provision, in itself, has direct and indirect impacts on soils. Burning peats provides only ~0.02% global energy supply yet emits ~(0.7-0.8)% carbon losses from land use change and forestry (LUCF). Bioenergy crops provide ~0.3% energy supply and occupy ~(0.2-0.6)% harvested area. Increased bioenergy demand is likely to encourage switching from forests and pastures to rotational energy cropping, resulting in soil carbon loss. However, with protective policies, incorporation of residues from energy provision could sequester ~0.4% LUCF carbon losses. All organic wastes available in 2018 could provide ~10% global energy supply, but at a cost to soils of ~5% LUCF carbon losses; not using manures avoids soil degradation but reduces energy provision to ~9%. Wind farms, hydroelectric solar and geothermal schemes provide ~3.66% of energy supply and occupy less than ~0.3% harvested area, but if sited on peatlands could result in carbon losses that exceed reductions in fossil fuel emissions. To ensure renewable energy provision does not damage our soils, comprehensive policies and management guidelines are needed that (1) avoid peats, (2) avoid converting permanent land uses (such as perennial grassland or forestry) to energy cropping and (3) return residues remaining from energy conversion processes to the soil
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 May 2021

Keywords

  • Soils
  • energy provision
  • peat burning
  • organic wastes
  • crop residues
  • organic manures

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