Biodiversity Impact Assessment of future biomass provision for biofuel production – Phase 2a

27 Apr 2023

Biodiversity preservation has become a significant topic in Europe due to the increasing demand for more sustainable goods. Concawe, as part of its research activity in biomass availability and mobi-lization for biofuels production, has commissioned this study to obtain a better understanding of how biomass removal from forests affects biodiversity. To attain this, a good understanding of how biodiversity can be measured is needed. For this purpose, a literature review of the available biodi-versity assessment methods is conducted in this study. More specifically, the methods and tools used in the EU project ALIGN [1], which applies a broad spectrum of biodiversity assessment meth-ods and tools, were investigated. Additionally, forestry labels and political development strategies for forests have been examined with a focus on their criteria and parameters of measurement.

Generally, it can be stated that most of the reported methods in the literature are not based on standalone background data and should be identified as tools with most of them to making use of or relying on three established assessment methods: the PDF (Potentially Disappeared Fraction of species) method, the GLOBIO (Global biodiversity model for policy support) framework and the ReCiPe method. While PDF and GLOBIO specifically assess biodiversity, ReCiPe assesses the damage to ecosystems, which is then used as an indicator for damage to biodiversity. The methods are then compared to the B.I.A. (Biodiversity Impact Assessment) method developed at Fraunhofer IBP. PDF and GLOBIO use standardized characterization factors (derived from average values varying per region and management form) deduced from other assessment or monitoring frameworks and are therefore easy to apply. On the other hand, B.I.A. calculates characterization factors for each case study or assessed production process individually. This means that it is possible to integrate more detailed field data, but it is therefore more complex to apply. Consequently, in the case of detailed data availability, B.I.A. can show more detailed results that are more individual to a case study or production process than PDF and GLOBIO.

Another focus of the study is the assessment of the most relevant criteria for assessing the impact on forest biodiversity. For this purpose, eco labels and political strategies were examined and com-pared to the inputs of the above mentioned biodiversity assessment methods. The most mentioned criteria are area and region, species abundance, deadwood, soil effects, planting or management practice, fertilization and pesticides application. Weighting or favoring certain criteria is hardly pos-sible as the combination and interaction of all criteria leads to a robust result of the biodiversity assessment. Since some of these criteria often complement each other – e.g. management practice, fertilization and pesticides application, the inclusion or the way of inclusion varies in the different methods. Especially through the usage of global or regional standard values or characterization factors, which often differ strongly from the actual state on-site, sometimes different results may be obtained.

Summarizing the literature review findings of this study, it can be concluded that several biodiversity methods and tools have been developed and reported, with many of them to be possibly used to assess the impact of forest biomass removal on forest biodiversity. Quantifying biodiversity in forests can be complex, however, the influencing factors have been widely discussed and listed in the different European eco-labels and guidelines. Finally, taking a decision on which method is more suitable for such a biodiversity analysis as well as the level of detail and accuracy that can be attained is relevant to the type and extent of available data.