March 9, 2006
Climate Change to Affect European Production of Bioenergy Crops
The EU Science for Environment service reported on bioenergy crop research:
Changes in European agricultural productivity and subsidy policies are expected to reduce land devoted to food production and make land available for bioenergy crop production. Because European policy depends on increasing use of renewable energy, including bioenergy, research has been done to assess the impact of climate change on bioenergy crops. Recent research indicates that southern Europe's ability to produce bioenergy crops will be severely reduced in the future unless Europe undertakes measures to adapt to climate change, such as breeding for temperature and drought tolerance and alternative agricultural practices such as early sowing.
Tuck Gill et al. (2006) « The potential distribution of bioenergy crops in Europe under present and future climate », Biomass and Bioenergy 30: 183–197.
European scientists explored the potential distribution of a range of bioenergy crops under current conditions and under future climate -- with the goal of determining which bioenergy crops can be used to meet the demand for bioenergy now and in the future. Researchers derived maps of the potential distribution of 26 promising bioenergy crops in Europe based on suitable climatic conditions and elevation. Crops suitable for temperate and Mediterranean climates were selected from four groups: oilseeds (e.g. oilseed rape, sunflower), starch crops (e.g. potatoes), cereals (e.g. barley), and solid biofuel crops (e.g. sorghum, miscanthus). The impact of climate change under different scenarios and general circulation models on the potential future distribution of these crops was determined, based on predicted future climatic conditions. Climate scenarios were based on four IPCC SRES² emission scenarios, implemented by four main global climate models. Overall, the results have shown that the potential distribution of temperate oilseeds, cereals, starch crops, and solid biofuels is predicted to increase in northern Europe by the 2080s, due to increasing temperatures, and decrease in southern Europe (e.g. Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, and Greece) due to increased drought. Mediterranean oil and solid biofuel crops, currently restricted to southern Europe, are predicted to extend further north due to higher summer temperatures. These effects become more pronounced with time and are the greatest under the highest emission scenario and for models predicting the greatest climate forcing. All models predict that bioenergy crop production in Spain is especially vulnerable to climate change, with many temperate crops predicted to decline dramatically by the 2080s.
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