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FAO/UNEP/UN-Energy Bioenergy Decision Support Tool -
MODULE 8: Impacts
Environment and Natural Resources
This section provides a list of guiding questions and sub-questions on potential environmental impacts (other than climate and air
quality impacts) of bioenergy production and use. The following environmental impact categories were identifed:
• Ecosystems and biodiversity;
• Water availability and quality;
• Forest resources and products;
• Soil and land productivity;
Effects on the aforementioned impact categories can be direct or can be off-site from the project location, or through land–use changes
triggered by bioenergy production; this is particularly true for GHG balances and for biodiversity. The dynamics of direct and indirect
land-use change are still widely debated in the scientifc community. As research evolves, emerging and commonly accepted method-
ologies should be applied in order to better measure/estimate the impacts of bioenergy production and use.
The frst category of impacts refers to the potential loss of biodiversity (including agro-biodiversity) associated with bioenergy feedstock
production, due mainly to land use changes, agricultural practices as well as to the introduction of non-endemic species. There can
also be positive contributions to biodiversity through bioenergy expansion, such as when sustainable farming or forestry practices
replace a previous intensive monoculture
<Mod5-Land Resources>.
The second category refers to the potential impacts of bioenergy production on both water availability and quality, due either to water
overexploitation or pollution. The third impact category concerns the potential impacts on forests resources and products of the use (for
bioenergy production) of biomass from natural and semi-natural forests. Particular attention is given to pre-established competing uses
of these forests resources and products.
The other two categories concern the potential impacts of biomass production, harvest, transport and conversion on soil, land and
forest resources.
Table 2: Expected relevance of environment and natural resource guiding questions for different biomass
sources and scales or markets (*** = highest relevance)
Main feedstock
source
Scale/market
Ecosystems and
biodiversity
Water availability
and quality
Forest resources
and products
Soil and land
productivity
Agricultural
sources
Dedicated
agro-energy crops Large-scale/export
***
***
*
***
Improved or
increased use of
co-products
Variable
*
**
*
**
Wastes and
residues
Small-scale/
domestic
*
*
*
***
Woody sources
Dedicated forest
plantation
Large-scale/export
***
***
***
**
Extraction from
native forests
Small-scale/
domestic
*
*
***
**
Wastes and
residues
Small-scale/
domestic
*
*
***
*
Mixed sources
Small-scale/
domestic
*
*
**
**
NOTE: Feedstock sources and scales/markets are examples rather than an exhaustive list