This is one of the results of a biomass study by the Join Research Centre of the EU, presented this month. The study assesses the biomass produced in the EU, the quantities being used and their uses.
The land-based sectors of the EU alone produce 1466 Mt of dry matter of biomass annually (agriculture 956 Mt and forestry 510 Mt) and 2MT are produced by the marine-based sectors (fisheries and aquaculture, algae). More than 60% is used in the feed and food sector, followed by bioenergy (19.1%) and biomaterials (18.8%).
The balance varies highly depending on products. For example, the trade balances of animal and processed products as well as solid wood products and paper and paperboard are positive. On the contrary, the EU is a net importer of plant-based food, solid biofuels, fish and seafood as well as algae.
Of the biomass produced, part remains in the field to maintain the carbon sink and the other ecosystem services. In agriculture, 46% of the production corresponds to residues, out of which about one fourth is collected. In the forestry sector, about one third of the wood produced annually remains in the forest increasing the carbon stock. Wood removals however, are underreported, thus the unharvested biomass is likely to be lower, although still in the positive range.
Work in progress
The JRC biomass study has a long-term perspective; the work is progressing and will continue in the coming years. The current report can thus be considered as a first assessment, containing some gaps that will be further explored in the prosecution of the study. For example: improving the comparability across sectors, reducing the knowledge gaps between supply and uses of biomass, complementing the analysis with information on algae and waste flows, thus looking closer at the circularity aspects of the bioeconomy and assessing bio-based supply chains against all dimensions of sustainability (environmental, economic and social).