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Short rotation coppice useful for carbon savings and for wildlife

Dr Angela Karp at Rothamsted Research led an interdisciplinary team from the universities of East Anglia and Exeter, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, in a major research project to identify the effects of increasing the amount of land used to grow these new crops. Their calculations suggest that planting biomass crops to generate electricity does lead to net savings in greenhouse gases, compared with current emissions.

SRC willow and miscanthus are already grown over c17,000 hectares in the UK to provide electricity and heat. Government policies aim to encourage up to around one million hectares, some of which could also be processed into transport fuels. But concerns have been raised about the likely effects on farmland biodiversity, water resources and familiar landscapes, as well as the pressures on land used for growing food crops.

The researchers found that the SRC willow in particular actually had positive effects for butterflies, some invertebrates and most bird species. Looking at water usage, they found that SRC willow is similar to cereal crops, while miscanthus is more comparable to woodlands.

by S. C.
23 september 2009, Food & Fun > Nature

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