Forest ecosystems produce the best quality and most consistent supplies of water for human use. The increase in the use of woody biomass as a feedstock for bioenergy production has raised questions about potential impacts on water quality. Best management practices (BMPs) have been developed and implemented since the early 1970s to ensure that forest harvesting can be conducted with minimum impact on water quality. Although BMPs were originally designed to minimize water quality impacts, they can be used for a variety of environmental concerns. The use of BMPs is widespread in developed countries and it varies from mandatory to voluntary. In many countries BMPs are incorporated in ‘Codes of Forest Practice’ that guide forest managers through the complete bioenergy life cycle. The development and application of BMPs is not a static process, but one that relies on a continual cycle of application, assessment and monitoring, and refinement. Although some countries have “national standards,“ the complex matrix of forest ecosystems, climates, soils and topography, and harvesting systems requires ongoing assessment, monitoring, and refinement to craft BMPs to best suit local conditions. Research and development studies play a key part in the refinement and communication of improved BMPs. They are also crucial in validating the effectiveness of BMPs. This is especially important where local environmental conditions or operational standards are unique. BMPs ensure that forest bioenergy programs can be a sustainable part of forest management and renewable energy production.
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