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  • From seeds to sales: A comprehensive look at the potential of bioenergy crops

From seeds to sales: A comprehensive look at the potential of bioenergy crops

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Homes stand on stilts in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Balancing environmental responsibility and rapid development – as well as the energy and manpower needed to keep up with the pace – is a major challenge facing Indonesia.

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Senior Scientist Himlal Baral has led a research project focusing on this ‘food-energy-environment trilemma’ since 2015. He and his team are examining bioenergy – energy derived from living organisms, such as trees and herbaceous plants – as part of the array of components needed to solve the challenge.

If the bioenergy sector plants its roots in sustainable agriculture methods, it can simultaneously help achieve other national targets like food security and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Rather than growing the sector through the conversion of healthy ecosystems and arable land, the project seeks to establish a new approach of using Indonesia’s degraded lands for bioenergy production, thereby transforming them back into profitable landscapes.

In light of the government’s goal to increase the amount of renewable energy in the national energy mix from 6% in 2005 to 31% by 2030 – also aiding it’s program to procure 35,000 MW of electricity by 2030 – Baral has presented on his inquiries to the Indonesian House of Regional Representatives, who with interest requested a map of the country’s degraded landscapes, marking which biomass plants would work well where.

This has raised a few main questions for the team to examine, seeing the project extended to the end of 2020 as they continue to research the answers and gather the information the government needs. Which species are most promising for such a goal? How can biofuel and food production be achieved hand-in-hand? What are the impacts of bioenergy production on multiple ecosystem services?

Read more: What’s holding back biodiesel industry growth in Indonesia?

A man drives a boat through a bioenergy project area in Sumatra. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Step one is to figure out which species are best suited for various environments, in terms of carbon storage, growth and yield, and sustainability. This means testing out different species – woody biomass species such as Gliricidia sepium and Calliandra calothyrsus; oil seed trees such as Calophyllum inophyllumand Pongamia pinnata – and in various settings.

Some grow and yield more in waterlogged areas as opposed to dry; some thrive in agroforested or mixed settings while others require monoculture. Some store more carbon above-ground while others, below; some have positive effects on surrounding water resources and biodiversity, while others could cause harm.

Once certain species are identified as solid candidates for certain environments, the next step is to convert them into energy. For the scientists, this means calculating greenhouse gas emissions of their conversions as well as all the emissions involved in getting the bioenergy into the market.

And then there’s the market itself. In order to keep more benefits in local communities rather than carried off to others in the value chain, the project also looks at bioenergy business models for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), potentially involving partnerships with larger businesses and state-owned-enterprises. Investigations into governance and land tenure issues will also seek to give producers proper land security, to better incentivize good land-use practices.

Read more: Growing energy and restoring land: Potentials of bioenergy production from degraded and underutilized land in Indonesia

There are a number of challenges that will need to be avoided and addressed, such as keeping bioenergy from competing with food for land use, which can increase food prices and drive up food insecurity if bioenergy crops win out. Poorly planned production can lead to further degradation of forests; use of insecticides and fertilizers can harm the environment and contaminate water sources; and without proper governance, land tenure conflicts can increase.

But with the right crops in the right places, and the right business models to help locals hold onto the profits, bioenergy just may have the power to lift landscapes out of degradation and into the realm of national necessities.

By Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Himlal Baral at [email protected]


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. 

This research was supported by the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) and the Republic of Korea.

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  • Governing Forest Ecosystem Services for Sustainable Environmental Governance

Governing Forest Ecosystem Services for Sustainable Environmental Governance

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Governing forest ecosystem services as a forest socioecological system is an evolving concept in the face of different environmental and social challenges. Therefore, different modes of ecosystem governance such as hierarchical, scientific–technical, and adaptive-collaborative governance have been developed. Although each form of governance offers important features, no one form on its own is sufficient to attain sustainable environmental governance (SEG). Thus, the blending of important features of each mode of governance could contribute to SEG, through a combination of both hierarchical and collaborative governance systems supported by scientifically and technically aided knowledge. This should be further reinforced by the broad engagement of stakeholders to ensure the improved well-being of both ecosystems and humans. Some form of governance and forest management measures, including sustainable forest management, forest certification, and payment for ecosystem services mechanisms, are also contributing to that end. While issues around commodification and putting a price on nature are still contested due to the complex relationship between different services, if these limitations are taken into account, the governance of forest ecosystem services will serve as a means of effective environmental governance and the sustainable management of forest resources. Therefore, forest ecosystem services governance has a promising future for SEG, provided limitations are tackled with due care in future governance endeavors.

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  • Himlal Baral discusses how forests can aid climate change impacts on geographical diversity

Himlal Baral discusses how forests can aid climate change impacts on geographical diversity

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  • Taking stock of ecosystem services in the mountains of southern Asia

Taking stock of ecosystem services in the mountains of southern Asia

Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, is pictured from the air. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR
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A mountainous landscape is seen from above in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

Mountain forest ecosystems provide a wide range of benefits, not only to local residents, but to those living downstream: from reducing floods to stabilizing slopes and supporting rich biodiversity.

Understanding these contributions is key to sustainably managing mountain forest services — but large-scale assessments are still rare, especially in data-poor regions.

In response, scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner institutions, including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), compiled in a new working paper the most relevant tools and approaches to assess the sociocultural, economic and ecological values of mountain forest ecosystems, with a focus on southern Asia.

“This working paper wants to help researchers and land managers understand the various assessment methods, so that they are able apply them in their own countries and landscapes,” says lead author and CIFOR senior scientist, Himlal Baral of FTA.

Understanding the direct and indirect benefits of forest ecosystems to human well-being is important globally, but especially so in mountainous areas, as illustrated in the paper by case studies in Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Iran and Nepal.

Steep slopes and elevation create geographical barriers to accessing mountain forest landscapes, meaning that “local communities are isolated from urban areas, and so rely heavily on mountain forest ecosystem services for basic needs such as food,” explains Baral. In many cases, mountain people are also more vulnerable to climate change and poverty, he says.

At the same time, natural geographical barriers often result in communities with their own distinct cultures and social systems, and in “more primary forests, higher carbon stocks and richer biodiversity compared with lowland areas,” states the paper.

Read also: Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

MULTIPLE TOOLS

Gauging stakeholders’ perspectives, analyzing markets and scenario modeling are three ways of assessing ecosystem services. “Some of these approaches are simple, user-friendly and readily available,” Baral points out. “Even people with little experience and technical expertise can use them.”

The various tools falling into these three categories are differentiated in terms of required data, technical capacity, time and cost, and “have their own strengths of being able to assess a particular value,” notes the paper.

This means they can be jointly implemented to assess multiple values of mountain forest ecosystem services, and to shed light on the trade-offs and synergies between them. For example, “restoration efforts to enhance one service could compromise — or improve — another service.”

A case study in Nepal’s community forests, for instance, illustrates the combination of free-access satellite images, repeat photography, and participatory approaches to engaging local communities and experts.

The paper indicates this three-pronged approach “can be used to quickly map and prioritize ecosystem services’ values,” and to demonstrate the positive impact of restoration efforts over the last two decades.

In Bhutan, a tool known as benefit-transfer showed that the average total value of forest ecosystem services was over USD 14.5 billion per year, while in India, stakeholder and household analyses revealed that local livelihoods near the Maguri Mottapung wetland hinge on 29 ecosystem services — something that “suggests the urgent need for a participatory management plan engaging local communities.”

Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, is pictured from the air. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

JOINT LEARNING

For Laxmi Dutt Bhatta, a senior ecosystem management specialist at ICIMOD and co-author of the paper, the assessment of ecosystem services is key to “showing the overall value of forests to countries and communities; to following up their evolution, and to informing decision-making.”

Co-author Sonam Phuntsho, who is a senior forestry officer at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER), agrees: “Forests are a critical natural asset in Bhutan, where the majority of the population directly depends on forests for various services. But there is very limited information on their value so far.”

From Phuntsho’s perspective, having an overview of studies and methodologies in the region is now “extremely useful” for the country, as payment for ecosystem services is gradually picking up.

In Indonesia, the so-called Q methodology has helped lay the ground for payment of ecosystem services by identifying stakeholders’ anticipated benefits and concerns, while the study in Nepal “could be very much replicated in Bhutan, given the rapid increase in community forests,” Phuntso says.

Read also: Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue

NEXT STEPS

Assessing mountain forest ecosystem services brings opportunities, but also challenges that must be reflected in assessment design.

These include the complexity of defining and classifying ecosystem services, intricate relationships among services including trade-offs and synergies, and the limitation of assessments to build successful payments for services.

Bhatta highlights two additional issues that will have to be addressed to understand the evolution of such services in the next 50 years: uncertainties associated with climate change and the scarcity of data on mountain forest ecosystem services, especially in data-poor regions such as South Asian mountains, and the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

Despite these challenges, lead author Himlal Baral is hopeful about the future of ecosystem service-based management. “In the past, forests just meant timber to many, but awareness is increasing,” he says.

“Now, a growing number of people associate forests with mitigation of climate change, water, biodiversity and landslide protection, so we are moving in the right direction.”

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Himlal Baral at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

  • Home
  • Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Mountain forest ecosystems provide a wide range of direct and indirect contributions to the people who live in the mountains and surrounding areas. Occupying steep slopes at high elevation, these ecosystems provide services such as stabilizing slopes, regulating hydrological cycles, maintaining rich biodiversity and supporting the livelihoods of those who are diverse in culture but vulnerable to poverty and food security. This paper (i) reviews several tools for assessing the sociocultural, economic and ecological values of mountain forest ecosystem services, (ii) demonstrates case studies of tool applications from several countries namely, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Iran and Nepal, and (iii) discusses assessment challenges that should be considered in the application of these tools.

In Bhutan, an application of benefit transfer showed that the average total value of forest ecosystem services was over USD 14.5 billion per year. In India, an application of stakeholder and household analyses indicated that a total of 29 different ecosystem services are available and sustain livelihoods of local communities near the Maguri Mottapung wetland. In Indonesia, an application of Q methodology identified anticipated benefits and concerns of forest watershed stakeholders related to certification applications for a payment for ecosystem services. In Iran, an application of the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs Tool showed that the regulation of ecosystem services has been declining in Hyrcanian forests despite the forests’ critical roles in the region. In Nepal, an application of a spatial analytical approach and participatory assessment techniques identified key mountain ecosystem services for community forests at the Charnawolti sub-watershed of Dolakha, and demonstrated forest restoration on degraded lands over the last two decades. Several challenges exist for the assessment of mountain forest ecosystem services and these must be reflected in assessment design. These challenges include the complexity of defining and classifying ecosystem services; limited availability of data on ecosystem services; uncertainties associated with climate change; complex relationships among services including trade-offs and synergies; and limitation of assessments to build successful payments for ecosystem services.


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