Global patterns of socioeconomic biomass flows in the year 2000: A comprehensive assessment of supply, consumption and constraints

Krausmann, F. and Erb, K.H. and Gingrich, S. and Lauk, C. and Haberl, H. (2008) Global patterns of socioeconomic biomass flows in the year 2000: A comprehensive assessment of supply, consumption and constraints. Ecological Economics, 65 (3). pp. 471-487.

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Human use of biomass has become a major component of the global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen. The use of land for biomass production (e.g. cropland) is among the most important pressures on biodiversity. At the same time, biomass is indispensable for humans as food, animal feed, raw material and energy source. In order to support research into these complex issues, we here present a comprehensive assessment of global socioeconomic biomass harvest, use and trade for the year 2000. We developed country-level livestock balances and a consistent set of factors to estimate flows of used biomass not covered by international statistics (e.g. grazed biomass, crop residues) and indirect flows (i.e. biomass destroyed during harvest but not used). We found that current global terrestrial biomass appropriation amounted to 18.7 billion tonnes dry matter per year (Pg/yr) or 16% of global terrestrial NPP of which 6.6 Pg/yr were indirect flows. Only 12% of the economically used plant biomass (12.1 Pg/yr) directly served as human food, while 58% were used as feed for livestock, 20% as raw material and 10% as fuelwood. There are considerable regional variations in biomass supply and use. Distinguishing 11 world regions, we found that extraction of used biomass ranged from 0.3 to 2.8 t/ha/yr, per-capita values varied between 1.2 and 11.7 t/cap/yr (dry matter). Aggregate global biomass trade amounted to 7.5% of all extracted biomass. An analysis of these regional patterns revealed that the level of biomass use per capita is determined by historically evolved patterns of land use and population density rather than by affluence or economic development status. Regions with low population density have the highest level of per-capita biomass use, high-density regions the lowest. Livestock, consuming 30–75% of all harvested biomass, is another important factor explaining regional variations in biomass use. Global biomass demand is expected to grow during the next decades; the article discusses some options and possible limitations related to such a scenario

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biomass; Land use; Social metabolism; Livestock; Biomass trade; Carbon flows
Author Affiliation: Institute of Social Ecology, Klagenfurt University, Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070 Vienna, Austria
Subjects: Social Sciences
Social Sciences > Agricultural Economics
Divisions: General
Depositing User: Ms K Syamalamba
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2011 10:58
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2011 10:58
Official URL:

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