Managing and using biomass
can deliver substantial benefits in terms of increased biodiversity, local
amenity and even rehabilitation of land and water courses.
Managing existing woodlands may be seen by landowners as an
expensive luxury. As a result, many of our native woodlands are poorly managed
and when this happens, just like with a home or car, they fall into disrepair.
The opportunity of deriving an income from wood which has no other commercial
value can act as a catalyst to bringing such forest or woodland back into
productive use. Sound management also maximises the opportunity for local flora
and fauna. Growing energy crops such as SRC (short rotation coppice) also has
important land, biodiversity, environment and soil conservation benefits. For
example, such crops have higher yields per land unit than traditional ones and
in certain cases can be successfully grown in low fertility or abandoned land.
The successful integration of energy crop schemes in current agricultural
systems has been shown to markedly increase the populations of certain
songbirds (often in decline elsewhere), raptors (birds of prey), and animals on
the ground such as deer which find the cover afforded by the crop very much to
SRC can also be used to link fragmented habitats forming 'wildlife corridors'
or protective envelopes for sensitive habitats. It can also be used as an
effective screen, growing quickly and densely, a filter for waste waters or
used to increase the patchwork nature of the landscape through judicious use of
varieties and harvesting cycles.
Energy crops such as SRC also require fewer fertilisers to achieve satisfactory
yields. Likewise, the use of herbicides and other chemicals is minimal due to
the robust nature of the crop. Their extensive root systems also hold soil and
minimises erosion, thus improving surface water quality. They can also filter
agricultural chemicals, keeping them from entering streams and they can
intercept nutrients that could migrate into groundwater causing pollution.
Along similar lines, it is possible to use SRC to selectively rehabilitate