Special Issue "Poplar Biomass for the Bioeconomy: Production, Prediction and Sustainability"

A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907). This special issue belongs to the section "Forest Economics, Policy, and Social Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 August 2022) | Viewed by 4716

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Hortensia Sixto
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Forest Research Centre, National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Crta. de la Coruña Km 7,5 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: populus; poplars; biomass; soil science

Special Issue Information

Biomass constitutes one of the biological resources from which it is possible to develop the bioeconomy as a way of facing the challenges associated with climate change. That which originates from forest plantations, and specifically poplar biomass, constitutes a fundamental instrument for obtaining a quality resource with spatial–temporal predictability as well as in relation to yields according to cultivation areas. However, to improve production, more accurate forecasting and the sustainability of the entire process are key elements. Optimizing production involves considering the breeding and selection of the most suitable plant materials, as well as the different processes involved in crop management, from those related to agronomy to those related to logistics. More accurate forecasting of crop biomass resources on a territory scale should be able to contribute to market stability. Finally, sustainability is a key element that encompasses numerous aspects that range from the adequacy of the land and the crop management practices that guarantee that sustainability to the valuation of the ecosystem services that these plantations can provide. Only from a holistic approach will it be possible to assess the biomass potential of poplar crops. This Special Issue aims to contribute to this.

Dr. Hortensia Sixto
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Populus
  • biomass production
  • silvicultural systems
  • predictive models
  • sustainability
  • ecosystems services
  • bioeconomy

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
Hydrocarbon Bio-Jet Fuel from Bioconversion of Poplar Biomass: Life Cycle Assessment of Site-Specific Impacts
Forests 2022, 13(4), 549; https://doi.org/10.3390/f13040549 - 31 Mar 2022
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Abstract
Hydrocarbon drop-in bio-jet fuels could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the aviation sector. Large tracts of land will be required to grow biomass feedstock for this biofuel, and changes to the management of these lands could have substantial environmental impacts. This [...] Read more.
Hydrocarbon drop-in bio-jet fuels could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the aviation sector. Large tracts of land will be required to grow biomass feedstock for this biofuel, and changes to the management of these lands could have substantial environmental impacts. This research uses spatial analysis and life cycle assessment methodologies to investigate potential environmental impacts associated with converting land to grow poplar trees for conversion to bio-jet fuel from different regions within the western United States. Results vary by region and are dependent on land availability, type of land converted, prior land management practices, and poplar growth yields. The conversion of intensively managed cropland to poplar production results in a decrease in fertilizer and a lower annual global warming potential (GWP) (Clarksburg CA region). Bringing unmanaged rangeland into production results in increases in fertilizers, chemical inputs, fuel use, and GWP (Jefferson OR region). Where poplar yields are predicted to be lower, more land is converted to growing poplar to meet feedstock demands (Hayden ID). An increased use of land leads to greater fuel use and GWP. Changes to land use and management practices will drive changes at the local level that need to be understood before developing a drop-in biofuels industry. Full article
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Article
Analyzing the Consequences of Sharing Principles on Different Economies: A Case Study of Short Rotation Coppice Poplar Wood Panel Production Value Chain
Forests 2022, 13(3), 461; https://doi.org/10.3390/f13030461 - 16 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 811
Abstract
Quantifying the environmental impacts of value chains on the earth’s ecological limits is crucial to designing science-based strategies for environmental sustainability. Combining the Planetary Boundaries (PB) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework can be used to estimate if a value chain can be [...] Read more.
Quantifying the environmental impacts of value chains on the earth’s ecological limits is crucial to designing science-based strategies for environmental sustainability. Combining the Planetary Boundaries (PB) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework can be used to estimate if a value chain can be considered as Absolute Environmentally Sustainable (AES) in relation to the PB. One of the crucial steps in implementing the PB-LCA framework is using sharing principals to downscale the global PB to smaller scales (e.g., country) and calculate an assigned Safe Operating Space (aSOS). This study assesses the potential AES of a wood panel value chain in Austria and Slovakia to understand the consequences of applying diverse sharing principles on different economies. Two economic and one emission-based sharing principles were compared. The results show that depending on the sharing principle implemented, different conclusions on the AES and potential strategies at a value chain and national level are achieved. Economic-based sharing principles are biased to the value chain’s economical contribution. As for the emission-based approach, greater aSOS is given to systems with a higher contribution of emissions. A potential downside of either approach is that it can lead to misleading environmental strategies, such as hindering the development of less wealthy value chains and giving less incentive to improve environmental efficiency. These outcomes highlight the importance of further research into resolving the issues about just assignment of SOS. Moreover, our study contributes to the effort of making the PB-LCA framework relevant for strategic decision-making at a value chain level. Full article
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Article
Beyond Monetary Cost-Benefit Analyses: Combining Economic, Environmental and Social Analyses of Short Rotation Coppice Poplar Production in Slovakia
Forests 2022, 13(2), 349; https://doi.org/10.3390/f13020349 - 19 Feb 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 705
Abstract
Rising demand for bio-based products exerts a growing pressure on natural resources such as wood. Sustainable solutions are becoming increasingly important to meet the demand. In this study, 20-year poplar Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) plantations located in Western Slovakia are investigated with respect [...] Read more.
Rising demand for bio-based products exerts a growing pressure on natural resources such as wood. Sustainable solutions are becoming increasingly important to meet the demand. In this study, 20-year poplar Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) plantations located in Western Slovakia are investigated with respect to (socio)-economic, environmental and social sustainability. The cost–benefit methodology is applied to assess the economic profitability of a switch from conventional annual crops (corn maize and winter rye) to perennial SRC. To compare economic profitability of the land management, net present value (NPV), payback time (PBT), internal rate of return (IRR) and benefit–cost ratio (BCR) are calculated. The study was enhanced by adopting the concept of regional value added to indicate the local value creation. The results for the three scenarios yield an NPV equal to 12,156 euros ha−1 for corn maize, 9763 euros ha−1 for winter rye and 2210 euros ha−1 with a PBT of 14.13 years for poplar SRC production. The regional value added for the corn maize scenario was estimated with 10,841 euros ha−1, the winter rye with 7973 euros ha−1 and the poplar SRC with 1802 euros ha−1. To appraise non-monetized social values, semi-structured interviews (N = 4) were conducted among experts familiar with SRC management in Eastern Europe. Non-monetary benefits for the stakeholder groups society, farmers or landowners and the industry were identified in terms of land fragmentation, carbon sequestration and an increase in biodiversity within the plantations, farm diversification and higher independency from wood markets. The relatively poor image of SRC, farmers or landowners having concerns about being tied on long-term contracts and legal restrictions may become obstacles in the establishment of SRC. For estimating the capability of carbon sequestration in SRC plantations the RothC model was utilized, resulting in the potential soil organic carbon (SOC) average increase of 29% during the 20 years. However, a transition in land use patterns must involve thorough considerations of all three pillars of sustainability to ensure long-term viability of the establishment. Full article
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Article
Nutrient Release through Litterfall in Short Rotation Poplar Crops in Mediterranean Marginal Land
Forests 2021, 12(9), 1185; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12091185 - 01 Sep 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 629
Abstract
A detailed knowledge of how poplar leaf litter decomposes under Mediterranean marginal conditions can help to minimize fertilization inputs and determine the profitability and sustainability of energy crops established in these particularly sensitive areas for bioenergy. Leaf litter decomposition was monitored for 32 [...] Read more.
A detailed knowledge of how poplar leaf litter decomposes under Mediterranean marginal conditions can help to minimize fertilization inputs and determine the profitability and sustainability of energy crops established in these particularly sensitive areas for bioenergy. Leaf litter decomposition was monitored for 32 months using the litterbag technique in a poplar crop under short rotation conditions in a marginal Mediterranean area. In addition, nutrient dynamics, together with the production and composition of the woody and foliar biomass produced, were studied for a period of four years. Leaf litter decomposition was relatively slow, particularly during the winter months, and accelerated in early spring, coinciding with the rainy season. At the end of the decomposition study 50% of the initial litterfall was decomposed, releasing roughly 60% of the N, 40% of the K, and 70% of the P initially present in fresh leaves. Annual yields of 6.0 dry Mg ha−1 were obtained. The aerial biomass produced the first year of the second rotation cycle extracted 83, 8.7, and 29 kg ha−1 of N, P, and K, respectively, whereas the amount of nutrients that were estimated to be naturally supplied to the system through leaf litter decomposition were 180 kg ha−1 of N, 19 kg ha−1 of P, and 30 kg ha−1 of K. Therefore, four years after establishing the energy crop, leaf litter was able to release higher amounts of primary macronutrients into the environment than the nutrient uptake by the produced aboveground biomass (woody and foliar biomass). Full article
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Article
Growing Poplar in Acid Soils: Biomass Yield and Ash Behavior
Forests 2021, 12(7), 960; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12070960 - 20 Jul 2021
Viewed by 751
Abstract
Atlantic areas of southern Europe have low water restrictions but are also characterized by acid soils with low intrinsic fertility, so the selection of clones that have adapted to these characteristics is essential. In this study, biomass yield data for eight poplar clones [...] Read more.
Atlantic areas of southern Europe have low water restrictions but are also characterized by acid soils with low intrinsic fertility, so the selection of clones that have adapted to these characteristics is essential. In this study, biomass yield data for eight poplar clones established in two trials were evaluated after the first rotation. Both sites were representative of acid soils that had previously been used for agriculture and had low levels of alkali and alkaline earth elements. The first trial was used to determine which clones performed the best in terms of biomass and stem size, testing two Populus × euramericana (Dode) Guinier (I-214 and AF2), two P. × interamericana Van Brokehuizen × P. nigra L. (Monviso, AF6), three P. × interamericana (Unal, Beaupre and Raspalje), and one P. trichocarpa Torr & A. Gray (Trichobel) clone. The second trial explored the possibility of simultaneously growing biomass and timber, specifically considering the Raspalje and Trichobel balsam poplar clones. To complete a previous study on energy properties, nine biomass samples were obtained from each of the eight clones to evaluate the composition and behavior of the ash generated during combustion, particularly the sintering risk. Several indices of sintering risk were explored and compared with the actual sintering using the BioSlag test. The results show large differences in biomass yield between clones, with the balsam poplar derived clones (both hybrid or pure Populus trichocarpa) performing the best. Growth results for stems planted for wood and the cuttings planted in between these stems show that a mixed biomass–timber arrangement provides good results, at least during the first rotation. The relative proportion of oxides in the poplar ash followed the order CaO > K2O > MgO >> P2O5 >> SiO2 > Al2O3 > Na2O > Fe2O5 >> TiO2. Significant differences between clones were found for K2O and MgO. Risk indices showed moderate levels of sintering derived from alkali elements, with significant differences between clones. The actual slagging and the hardness of the slag particles were very low thus, denoting good ash behavior during combustion, particularly for the clones selected for biomass yield. No significant covariate effect of basal diameter was found for any of the analyzed variables. We conclude that growing site-undemanding poplar clones in acid soils can yield both reasonable levels of biomass yield and good quality chips for combustion in domestic thermal systems. Full article
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