Identification of potential areas for biomass production in China: Discussion of a recent approach and future challenges

  • Wilko Schweers
  • Bai Zhanguo
  • Elliott Campbell
  • U. R. Fritsche
  • Heinz-Peter Mang
  • Mario Lucas
  • Zifu Li
  • Andrew Scanlon
  • Haoran Chen
  • Qin Zhihao
  • Dianxiong Cai
  • Yunxiang Jina
  • Jun Zhangg
  • Lili Tug
  • Tong Jiang
  • Nannan Zhangi

A standard methodology is needed to recognize potentially suitable areas for sustainable bioenergy crop production. This facilitates better identification of promising crops and cropping systems, logistical and economic studies, and work needed to meet regulatory criteria. A possible approach is built upon three layers of internationally available spatial data: (1) degrading and abandoned areas, (2) potentially suitable land cover classes, (3) exclusion zones such as nature reserves and areas of high biodiversity. For China, areas identified as potentially suitable range from 1.2 to 6.0% of the national territory, depending on different levels of statistical confidence in degrading area status and allowable limits of terrestrial carbon. Verification on the ground showed that about 60% of points tested conformed to the remote suitability assessment in the scenario, which represents the results for the combination of all degrading areas and a terrestrial carbon stock limit of 200 t ha−1. A top-down approach is useful in framing potentially suitable locations, but a complementary bottom-up analysis is still required to ultimately identify areas for sustainable bio-fuel production.