Pilot 4: Ecologic slash utilization

This pilot was implemented in Italy, Greece and Romania.

The forest and biomass sector has discovered a new, sustainable field of income over the past decades: the production of energy from wood by-products. Since the year 2000 the governments in the European Union have consequently supported the construction of biomass heating plants by public contributions. Due to this economic attractive conditions and the environmentally friendly resource wood, this field has been undergoing a significant boom in some regions like Austria, Germany and also South Tyrol. District heating plants have been built supplying villages or industrial areas with heat, but also private households, public buildings and enterprises have installed heating systems based on biomass. 

Nowadays the constant supply of the energy production plants with biomass is a crucial aspect. In some regions the necessary amount of biomass exceeds the local available, so that the biomass has to be transported over far distances. But how much is locally available? And where? This pilot project aims to give answers to this two questions.

In a first step forest areas have been determined, where logging residues accumulate. This is the case when full tree method is applied: cable cranes transport the whole tree from the logging area to the forest road and then a processor is in use. But it also occurs when logging residues are extracted by other means. In a second step information about the soil quality have been gathered to define whether the extraction is possible without affecting the nutrient conditions of the ground or not. Last but not least, the information is displayed in maps and combined. Based on this artographic information a new way of estimating the amount of sustainably usable biomass will be elaborated.

Objectives

The aim of this pilot project is to segregate the entire area of the project partners regions according to the technically exploitable forest area defined by timber harvesting methods and harvesting systems. In addition, by overlapping the information of the forest area defined by harvesting method with location information (forest type map), the forest area suitability on a full tree utilization can be evaluated, quantified per reference unit and displayed cartographic.

Extracting the whole tree, also all the nutrients in leafs and needles are extracted. As for several types of soil this might be inappropriate, detailed information about the nutrient supply were used. The declaration was done by a 3-color-system (for example: red – orange – green). Red areas display areas where the extraction of the nutrients is not sustainable, orange where the nutrient extraction can be possible but must be evaluated for every harvesting area separately and green where nutrient extraction is possible without negative effects.

The following main objectives have been achieved within the pilot:

  • Cartographic excretion of the forest areas according to the main timber harvesting methods or systems
  • Development of a model of public support to sustainable forest management and biomass production in forests
  • Assessment of the available forest biomass for its utilization for energy production in a social, economic and environmental sustainable way

Results

Map slash

Map of south Tyrol/Italy that depicts where full-tree harvesting is ecologically feasible (green) problematic (yellow) or should be omitted (red)

Elaborated digital maps with full information about the applicability of the most economic harvesting method, the areas where full tree method can be applied and the more specific information about soil characteristics are available. Such information is important for forest management, especially in the future if alternative potentials for biomass will be used. This tool is meant to be a support for future decisions. Apart from the above, the pilot project utilizes, for the Greek side, an innovative community-based approach to harvesting methods and forest areas through the production of interactive maps. Additionally, this project could be important and helpful for potential bioenergy investors, as it will calculate the potentials for biomass and the most economic harvesting methods for the Region of Western Macedonia.