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Land suitability for energy crops under scenarios of climate change and land‐use

Cronin, J; Zabel, F; Dessens, O; Anandarajah, G; (2020) Land suitability for energy crops under scenarios of climate change and land‐use. GCB Bioenergy 10.1111/gcbb.12697. (In press).

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Abstract

Bioenergy is expected to play a critical role in climate change mitigation. Most IAMs assume an expansion of agricultural land for cultivation of energy crops. This study examines the suitability of land for growing a range of energy crops on areas that are not required for food production, accounting for climate change impacts and conservation requirements. A global fuzzy‐logic model is employed to ascertain the suitable cropping areas for a number of sugar, starch and oil crops, energy grasses and short rotation tree species that could be grown specifically for energy. Two climate change scenarios are modelled (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5), along with two scenarios representing the land which cannot be used for energy crops due to forest and biodiversity conservation, food agriculture and urban areas. Results indicate that 40% of the global area currently suitable for energy crops overlaps with food land and 31% overlaps with forested or protected areas, highlighting hotspots of potential land competition risks. Approximately 18.8 million km2 is suitable for energy crops, to some degree, and does not overlap with protected, forested, urban or food agricultural land. Under the climate change scenario RCP8.5, this increases to 19.6 million km2 by the end of the century. Broadly, climate change is projected to decrease suitable areas in southern regions and increase them in northern regions, most notably for grass crops in Russia and China, indicating that potential production areas will shift northwards which could potentially affect domestic use and trade of biomass significantly. The majority of the land which becomes suitable is in current grasslands and is just marginally or moderately suitable. This study therefore highlights the vital importance of further studies examining the carbon and eco‐system balance of this potential land‐use change, energy crop yields in sub‐optimal soil and climatic conditions, and potential impacts on livelihoods.

Type: Article
Title: Land suitability for energy crops under scenarios of climate change and land‐use
DOI: 10.1111/gcbb.12697
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcbb.12697
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097883
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