Marginal lands: Concept, classification criteria and management

Arshad, M.N.; Donnison, I.; Rowe, R.

In the UK the expansion of lignocellulosic crops is supported in a number of policy documents (Committee on Climate Change, 2018, 2019; 2020). Biomass from cellulosic bioenergy crops is expected to play a substantial role in future energy systems of the UK, and also to contribute to greenhouse gas removal through the use of bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (BECCS). However, land is a limited resource, and all land is multi-functional, needed for food, feed, timber, and fibre production, as well as for nature conservation and climate protection. Integrated policies for energy, land use and water management are therefore required. To use land for bioenergy crop production, it is important to understand and assess the impacts of such cultivation on food supply and the environment. To avoid potential competition with food crops, in both the UK and more widely in Europe, it has been proposed that the expansion of these crops should be focused on marginal agricultural land. However, marginal land is poorly defined, leading to difficulties in the assessment of both the amount and location of land availability for bioenergy crops, and thus hampering efforts to assess the potential economic, environmental and societal impact of bioenergy crop expansion.

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