Case study on impacts of large scale re-afforestation on ecosystem services in Nordic regions

Conservation of forests and reduced deforestation are the best forest based NETPs in the context of the Nordic countries in terms of overall positive impacts. On the other hand, afforestation and reforestation (A/R) show the least potential for climate change mitigation while at the same time having the most negative environmental effects.

Other NETPs with high potential in the Nordic countries are bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) due to the developed bioenergy infrastructure, and the restoration of ditched and drained peatlands.

As part of its evaluation of negative emission technologies and practices (NETPs), the NEGEM project carried out a case study on the impacts and performance of forest based NETPs in the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden.

The NEGEM consortium evaluated 13 NETPs against 5 indicators, including carbon dioxide removal (CDR) potential (measured in Mtonn of CO2 equivalent per year), net climate mitigation, and impact on biodiversity, water quality and societal values (i.e., recreational, touristic, etc.)

This deliverable presents an overview of the plans, policies and set target of Nordics countries’ government regarding the role of the forestry sector in climate change mitigation. Then, a literature review of potential environmental effects of forest based CDR methods is carried out, and finally the NETPs considered are evaluated and discussed.

The developed forestry and bioenergy sector in the Nordic countries creates favorable conditions for BECCS, which could be easily implemented at the already existing emission point sources with very high CDR potential, although the highest CDR potential resides in the restoration of drained peatlands.

However, the solution which was evaluated as the overall best when taking environmental effects into consideration was the conservation of already existing forests.

The option with the most negative effects is A/R. While creating additional forested land can increase the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere, this effect might be mitigated by the change in surface albedo from seasonal snow cover. Furthermore, the CDR potential of A/R is quite limited since most areas suited for forests are already used for forestry; new forested areas are also seen as damaging to the touristic and recreational values of other environments, and to biodiversity as well.

The results of this deliverable will be further used in the NEGEM scenarios to be modelled in WP8.

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