Economic and environmental assessment of a multifunctional poplar plantation for roundwood and wood chip production in Spain

Keywords: Populus sp, life cycle assessment, operational cost, forest harvesting, profitability, environmental impacts


Aim of study: To analyze the environmental and economic performance of a multifunctional poplar plantation (MPP), which was managed to produce timber for sawn wood and chips for bioenergy.

Area of study: The plantation was located in Southern Spain producing roundwood and woodchips (from tops and branches).

Material and methods: The life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology was chosen to perform the environmental impact assessment from a cradle-to-gate perspective. Capital goods, including machinery-manufacturing processes, were included. One oven dry tonne (odt) of forest biomass was chosen as functional unit. The economic analysis was performed using present costs and common indicators: net present value (NPV) and internal rate of return (IRR).

Main results: The harvest operations are the most environmental impacting subsystem and cultivation the costliest. Chipping was the process contributing the most to the environmental burden. The use of fertilizers, within the cultivation subsystem, had a notable impact on certain midpoint categories. In terms of climate change potential, 1 odt of delivered wood chips generated 64.1 kg CO2-eq. When considering the whole system (including the roundwood fraction), this value was 45.2 kg CO2-eq odt-1. MPP was hardly profitable with land rental and irrigation being the most expensive items. NPV, including harvesting and transport subsystems, was 1,582 € ha-1, while IRR reached 6.3%.

Research highlights: Our results allow to identify the costliest operations and those with the greatest impact to improve the system. Finally, these figures can be compared with other crop alternatives such us poplar short rotation coppice (SRC).


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How to Cite
Laina, R., Herrero, S. J., Corona, B., Tolosana, E., de la Fuente , M. T., & San Miguel, G. (2022). Economic and environmental assessment of a multifunctional poplar plantation for roundwood and wood chip production in Spain. Forest Systems, 31(1), e002.
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