European forests are considered a crucial resource for supplying biomass to a growing bio-economy in Europe. This study aimed to assess the potential availability of forest biomass from European forests and its spatial distribution. We tried to answer the questions (i) how is the potential forest biomass availability spatially distributed across Europe and (ii) where are hotspots of potential forest biomass availability located?
The spatial distribution of woody biomass potentials was assessed for 2020 for stemwood, residues (branches and harvest losses) and stumps for 39 European countries. Using the European Forest Information SCENario (EFISCEN) model and international forest statistics, we estimated the theoretical amount of biomass that could be available based on the current and future development of the forest age-structure, growing stock and increment and forest management regimes. We combined these estimates with a set of environmental (site productivity, soil and water protection and biodiversity protection) and technical (recovery rate, soil bearing capacity) constraints, which reduced the amount of woody biomass that could potentially be available. We mapped the potential biomass availability at the level of administrative units and at the 10 km × 10 km grid level to gain insight into the spatial distribution of the woody biomass potentials.
According to our results, the total availability of forest biomass ranges between 357 and 551 Tg dry matter per year. The largest potential supply of woody biomass per unit of land can be found in northern Europe (southern Finland and Sweden, Estonia and Latvia), central Europe (Austria, Czech Republic, and southern Germany), Slovenia, southwest France and Portugal. However, large parts of these potentials are already used to produce materials and energy. The distribution of biomass potentials that are currently unused only partially coincides with regions that currently have high levels of wood production.
Our study shows how the forest biomass potentials are spatially distributed across the European continent, thereby providing insight into where policies could focus on an increase of the supply of woody biomass from forests. Future research on potential biomass availability from European forests should also consider to what extent forest owners would be willing to mobilise additional biomass from their forests and at what costs the estimated potentials could be mobilised.
This dataset contains the data of the map presented in Figure 2A: Estimated spatial distribution of forest biomass availability according to the BASE potential (ton dry matter ha-1 land yr-1) at the grid (10x10 km) level.