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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Mark Richards
  • Mark Pogson
  • Marta Dondini
  • Edward O. Jones
  • Astley Hastings
  • Dagmar N. Henner
  • Dr Mat Tallis
  • Eric Casella
  • Robert W. Matthews
  • Paul A. Henshall
  • Suzanne Milner
  • Gail Taylor
  • Niall P. McNamara
  • Jo U. Smith
  • Pete Smith
We implemented a spatial application of a previously-evaluated model of soil GHG emissions, ECOSSE, in the UK 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: oil seed 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 show 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 UK, 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 by using the most appropriate energy crop and cultivar for the local situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-644
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number3
Early online date23 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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