Session title: Sustainable biomass for Asia’s growing bioeconomy: regional initiatives and promising examples

Moderator: Viktor J. Bruckman (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria; coordinator IUFRO TF “SFBN”)

Monday, 24 October 2016, 16:00-180:00 (302 A)

Find more information on the IUFRO Task Force, Sustainable Forest Biomass Network, at:

In this session the speakers gave examples of concepts and cases for the sustainable development of biomass in Asia and Oceania.  The variety of topics and local conditions highlighted the diversity of research required to provide a sound scientific basis to guide policy that supports innovation and protects forest land from degradation, over-exploitation, and subsequent negative impacts on ecosystem services.

Among the main future challenges for the sustainable development of biomass, is obtaining a comprehensive overview of the opportunities and implications of biomass utilization in any given context. Biomass is a scattered and variable resource with varying regional potentials. To ensure sustainable development of this resource, decision makers will require relevant information applicable to the big picture and local situation, informed by close and comprehensive examination of the opportunities, implications, and alternatives to biomass as an energy source. However, this is only possible, if planned activities are economically and socially viable, i.e. if additional income can be generated, if jobs are being created. For this purpose, it may be necessary to support promising initiatives by governmental incentives in the initiation phase.

Flexible solutions that match available materials with local objectives and desired outputs have the potential to improve livelihoods and remain viable for long durations. Scientific research has provided a good set of information on environmental issues. Especially the impacts of climate change, as well as the potential biomass resources are well understood. However, more research is still needed on spatially explicit data, and insights into economic, and social considerations which determine the feasibility of sustainable development, are urgently needed.

Opportunities are unique to the scale, location, and type of biomass available. One presentation highlighted the difference among several Asian countries in terms of the types of biomass that they are suited to producing and the role of renewable energy in their national situations, as well as the role of biomass among other renewables.

A case study in Japan showed that urban biomass utilization could provide an economically feasible option for generating heat and electricity in small powerplants. This system would make use of woody debris from pruning and urban forest management, and critically the inclusion of heat generation in addition electricity generation would make this profitable.

Eucalyptus plantations were discussed by three presenters in different contexts. One indicated that both young and mature eucalyptus plantations in Argentina were inhabited by fewer bird species than control habitats, ­likely due to the structural simplicity of plantations. Another showed that the addition of potassium significantly increased productivity of eucalyptus plantations but also increased the vulnerability of trees to drought. Finally, the importance of location was demonstrated in the case of Ethiopia where the feasibility of sustainable biomass development differed between urban and rural areas.

Results presented from an Asian project involving ACMECS countries showed the diversity among countries in terms of potential for producing different bioenergy crops, and the potential share of biomass among all renewables, as well as the potential share of renewables among all energies.

This session demonstrated that there are many factors to consider in the development of sustainable biomass. Many aspects require scientific investigation to feed into policy processes which will support the sustainability of biomass use. Since the resource is variable and scattered, situation and scale need to be considered to see if the use of biomass is the optimal use.

Further reading: Biochar: A Regional Supply Chain Approach in View of Climate Change Mitigation, edited by Task Force Coordinator Viktor Bruckman et al., November 2016