Forests of the European Union (EU) have been intensively managed for decades, and they have formed a significant sink for carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere over the past 50 years. The reasons for this behavior are multiple, among them are: forest aging, area expansion, increasing plant productivity due to environmental changes of many kinds, and, most importantly, the growth rates of European forest having been higher than harvest rates. EU countries have agreed to reduce total emissions of GHG by 20% in 2020 compared to 1990, excluding the forest sink.
A relevant question for climate policy is: how long will the current sink of EU forests be maintained in the near future? And could it be affected by other mitigation measures such as bioenergy? In this article we assess tradeoffs of bioenergy use and carbon sequestration at large scale and describe results of the comparison of two advanced forest management models that are used to project CO2 emissions and removals from EU forests until 2030. EFISCEN, a detailed statistical matrix model and G4M, a geographically explicit economic forestry model, use scenarios of future harvest rates and forest growth information to estimate the future carbon balance of forest biomass. Two scenarios were assessed: the EU baseline scenario and the EU reference scenario (including additional bioenergy and climate policies).
Our projections suggest a significant decline of the sink until 2030 in the baseline scenario of about 25–40% (or 65–125 Mt CO2) compared to the models’ 2010 estimate. Including additional bioenergy targets of EU member states has an effect on the development of this sink, which is not accounted in the EU emission reduction target. A sensitivity analysis was performed on the role of future wood demand and proved the importance of this driver for the future sink development.