Book shows how building biomass ecosystems on degraded land is gaining momentum

A nyamplung tree. Photo credit: CIFOR

In recent years, a gradual transformation has taken place in parts of the Indonesian landscape.

In East Kalimantan, for example, where once the land was scarred and the soil depleted of vital nutrients by fire, birds, insects, bees and butterflies are now finding habitats.

They are attracted to newly planted trees beginning to flower and fruit in the Bukit Soeharto Research and Education Forest at Mulawarman University, where a potential biofuel tree suitable for the tropics, nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum) is being tested.

The nyamplung species is being tested as a potential alternative to biodiesel to restore degraded peatlands as part of climate-smart agroforestry approaches established by researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) working in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forests. , research institutions Muhammidiyah University in Palangkaraya and Sriwijaya University and the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) in South Korea.

The species – like pongamia – is attractive because it grows well in harsh environmental conditions and can produce a high volume of oil from its seeds and pits.

This project and others involving biomass energy are described in a new book launched Wednesday at the World Forestry Congress in Seoul titled Bioenergy for Landscape Restoration and Livelihoods: Recreating Energy-Smart Ecosystems in Degraded Landscapes edited by CIFOR-ICRAF scientists Himlal Baral, National Research and Innovation Agency Senior Researcher and Professor Budi Leksono and Mihyun Seol, who is also affiliated with NIFoS.

In Indonesia, around 40% of the country’s population of 280 million lack access to reliable electricity, in part due to distribution problems in the archipelago of 17,000 islands, of which only 9 000 are inhabited.

The book details the various elements of large-scale research efforts supporting Indonesia’s ambitions to supply all of its population with energy – almost a quarter of which must come from new and renewable energy sources by 2025 – as part of its national energy policy. Biomass is qualified as renewable if its rate of consumption does not exceed its rate of regeneration.

“If developed and deployed effectively using climate-smart agriculture techniques, bioenergy plantations have the potential to restore degraded lands, while enhancing biodiversity, environmental services and benefiting rural livelihoods” , Baral said.

“We believe that using fruits, nuts and biomass for energy offsets the high initial investments needed for restoration while providing additional benefits such as climate regulation and biodiversity.” Leksono added.

Land restoration is seen as a key element in addressing systemic environmental concerns, including changes caused by climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification and drought. Population growth, increased consumption and demand have led to increasing conversion of forests to other land uses in the tropics.

Land restoration with bioenergy crops is a relatively new concept and the book brings together a series of studies conducted over the past six years that illustrate current practices, advice, monitoring and lessons learned.

It includes chapters focused on policy analysis, geospatial assessment to identify land suitability, farmers’ perceptions, and species-specific details useful for land managers, planners, and policy makers.

The socio-economic and environmental benefits of nyamplung-based bioenergy production in rice, maize, groundnut and honey agroforestry systems are reviewed. Research on bamboo cultivation and plantation management is also described.

A large survey deploys spatial analysis, which estimates the available land extent of degraded areas in Indonesia, covering production, growth pattern and carbon stock potential. Another offers advice on enabling conditions, policies, financing and incentives.

“The evidence presented recognizes land scarcity and the need to produce biofuels to avoid competition with agriculture and expansion into forested areas, a scenario that benefits people and the planet,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of CIFOR and Director General of CIFOR-ICRAF.

“The cultivation of biomass for energy on degraded and underutilized land is an important land use strategy, which takes into account its potential for improving soil fertility, improving agricultural production , income and biodiversity while supporting climate and sustainable development goals.”

Investigations of soil macrofauna biodiversity and changes in soil fauna patterns in a burnt peatland being restored with planting of bioenergy crops are also revealed.

The book includes the human dimension, offering ideas and recommendations for involving landowners in the development of bioenergy crops in the restoration of degraded lands.

The practicalities of bioenergy production are also explored, including a method of extracting oil from pongamia seeds.

In another, a biomass gasification project and a community-based biomass power generation system for electrification in inaccessible rural areas are proposed and evaluated.

“Under the right conditions, the two goals of land restoration and bioenergy production are not antagonistic, but synergistic, a point this book captures very well,” said Vincent Gitz, Director of Programs and Platforms at CIFOR- ICRAF. “It will be very useful for a range of actors in the land and energy sectors to expand a modern and green program.”

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