Using and expanding the material and energy flow analysis (MEFA) framework for sustainability impact assessment of bio-energy systems

This research aims at analyzing sustainability aspects of bioenergy provision, at the global scale. The provision of bioenergy is regarded as a key technology for the mitigation of climate change. However, many knowledge gaps relate to the role and conditions of sustainable bioenergy provision. The objective is to explore the trends and patterns of global socio-economic biomass flows and their effects on ecological carbon flows (e.g. Net Primary Production) and carbon stocks in ecosystems in the last four decades at the level of world regions and encompassing all land uses (agriculture, forestry, infrastructure), aims at elaborating on these knowledge gaps. The establishment of such a full account represents a prerequisite to study important sustainability trade-offs, in particular competition for land as a resource, or the net contribution to Greenhouse Gas emission reduction of bioenergy provisioning schemes.

The methodological basis of this research is the Material and Energy flow analysis (MEFA; Figure 1). MEFA provides a framework to assess resource use intensity and sustainability of socio-economic activities in a top-down (systematic) perspective. It has been implemented as integral components of the environmental reporting schemes of national and international statistical offices. This framework will be applied and expanded to explore the long-term trends and patterns of global socio-economic biomass flows and their effects on ecological carbon stocks in ecosystems.

Figure 1. A schematic representation of biomass flows in and between countries, illustrating system boundaries used in the proposed research.

This research is expected to establish a consistent, robust, and comprehensive empirical basis for integrated analysis of sustainability aspects of linked land-use and biomass-use systems as well as insights into the potential contribution and conditions of bioenergy provision to sustainability goals.

Additionally, this study will assess the impact of applying cascade use in wood sectors based on the established global wood biomass flows account focusing on GHG emissions reduction and resource efficiency.