Developing a circular bioeconomy based on the sustainable use of biological resources, such as biomass, seems to be the best way of responding to the challenges associated with global change. Among the many sources, short rotation forest crops are an essential instrument for obtaining quality biomass with a predictable periodicity and yield, according to the areas of cultivation. This review aims to provide an overview of available knowledge on short rotation coppice Populus
spp. plantations under Mediterranean conditions and specifically in Spain, in order to identify not only the status, but also the future prospects, for this type of biomass production. The analysis of available information was conducted by taking into consideration the following aspects: Genetic plant material; plantation design, including densities, rotation lengths and the number of rotations, and mixtures; management activities, including irrigation, fertilization, and weed control; yield prediction; biomass characterization; and finally, an evaluation of the sustainability of the plantation and ecosystem services provided. Despite advances, there is still much to be done if these plantations are to become a commercial reality in some Mediterranean areas. To achieve this aim, different aspects need to be reconsidered, such as irrigation, bearing in mind that water restrictions represent a real threat; the specific adaptation of genetic material to these conditions, in order to obtain a greater efficiency in resource use, as well as a greater resistance to pests and diseases or tolerance to abiotic stresses such as drought and salinity; rationalizing fertilization; quantifying and valuing the ecosystem services; the advance of more reliable predictive models based on ecophysiology; the specific characterization of biomass for its final use (bioenergy/bioproducts); technological improvements in management and harvesting; and finally, improving the critical aspects detected in environmental, energy, and economic analyses to achieve profitable and sustainable plantations under Mediterranean conditions.
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