08 July 2013

Bioenergy and biofuels don’t have to lead to deforestation

A new IIASA study provides plausible scenarios for simultaneous increasing bioenergy and biofuel production while preserving forests and biodiversity.

biofuel power plant © Nostal6ie | Dreamstime.com

biofuel power plant © Nostal6ie | Dreamstime.com

Achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible, according to new IIASA research published in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy, even while preserving forests.

People often think that increasing bioenergy production means cutting forests to make way for the expanded agricultural production. But this doesn’t have to be the case, says IIASA researcher Florian Kraxner, who led the study. “We can protect forests and produce much more bioenergy,” he says. However, the study notes that achieving both goals would have tradeoffs. “We have to think ahead but act now,” says co-author Eva-Maria Nordström, ““We need policies to protect biodiversity hotspots for sustainable forest management and better water management. These policies must be better coordinated and also take socio-economic effects into account.”

The study examines global scenarios for bioenergy production and land use that can show the linkages between agriculture, deforestation, water, food prices, and greenhouse gas emissions, using IIASA’s GLOBIOM model and the Living Forests model cluster, developed in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund.

palm oil plant © Tan Kian Yong | Dreamstime.com

Palm oil plantation

The study shows that if we do not set policies to protect forests, regions such as Sub-saharan Africa and Latin America could lose more than 100 million hectares of forests by 2050. In contrast, in scenarios with policies to save forests, at least half of that deforestation could be prevented. In order to achieve that scenario, countries would need to set policies to protect biodiversity, to improve water management, and to switch to less land-intensive forms of agriculture, which in turn would likely lead to higher food prices.


Kraxner, et. al. 2013. Global bioenergy scenarios – Future forest development, land-use implications, and trade-offs. Biomass and Bioenergy. In press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2013.02.003

WWF: Living forests report

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Last edited: 11 September 2013


Florian Kraxner

Research Group Leader and Principal Research Scholar Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 233

Eva-Maria Nordström

Guest Research Scholar Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 669

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313