Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Environmental assessment of selected bioenergy chains - EIA

Environmental impact assessment is a procedure for examining proposed activities early in planning for their potential to impact the environment. The aim of environmental impact assessment is to identify, describe and assess the effects of a project on environmental issues. In general, EIA is working on a site specific level, i.e. environmental effects of projects are investigated on the basis of detailed analysis of different environmental factors, e.g. soil or vegetation at a certain site.

Energy crops can be used to manage or direct regional landscape ecology if the system is properly designed. Potential services include buffers around similarly structured natural habitats, linkages between fragments of natural habitat, or the creation of new habitats.

How effectively the energy crop serves such roles does not only depend on the particular crop, but also on how it is managed (including use of chemicals, equipment, and harvesting cycle).

Some general recommendations include (Wolfe 1993):
- Energy crops should be concentrated on current, idled, or former agricultural, pasture, or other “simplified” or “marginal” lands. Energy crops should not be grown on naturally structured primary-growth forest land, wetlands, or other natural lands.

- Energy crops should combine multiple vegetative structures to enhance landscape diversity as needed by particular species. This could include various combinations of short-rotation woody crops, perennial grasses, and other dedicated energy crops, as well as inclusions of natural habitat.

- If possible, energy crop fields should be arranged as buffers around similarly structured natural habitats and linkages between fragments of natural habitat.

- Ideally, energy crops should provide artificial environmental functions important for a given location (erosion control, enhanced or reduced transpiration, wastewater recycling systems).

- Energy crops could also be used to provide structure to conventional agricultural monoculture through the addition of shelterbelts and fencerow plantings.

- Similarly, monoculture of energy crops should have shelterbelts or fencerows of other types of vegetation.

- Landscape structure can also be made more diverse by harvesting adjacent stands on different rotation cycles, including leaving some stands for longer periods if possible.

- Energy crops should be studied carefully at all appropriate scales and on a long-term basis to better understand the best means of improving appropriate habitats for desired species, both for the energy crop itself and for related agricultural, managed forest, and natural lands. This should also be done on a regional basis, as appropriate.

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