Sustainability assessment of chestnut and invaded coppice forests in Piedmont region (Italy)
The Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) inside the COST ACTION “Innovative management and multifunctional utilization of traditional coppice forests - an answer to future ecological, economic and social challenges in the European forestry sector (EuroCoppice)” was carried out at Politecnico of Torino (Italy), Department of Energy between 29th September and 10th October 2014.
The goal of the STSM was to assess the sustainability of local wood fuels supply chains for energy production from chestnut and invaded coppice forests in Piedmont region (Italy) in comparison to the wood pellet currently imported from abroad. Hence, three wood energy products were evaluated: wood chips, pelletchips (innovative biofuels able to replace imported pellets from abroad) and wood pellets.
Data concerning wood chips and pelletchips production regarded real case study for two forest companies, Rossetto Legnami and La Foresta. Instead, a theoretical case was built for imported wood pellets.
Environmental, economic and social aspects, when possible, of the wood fuels supply chains were evaluated using the methodology of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA). For the environmental dimension, the report showed results for four environmental impacts categories: global warming, eutrophication, acidification and photochemical oxidation. Results evidenced higher environmental burdens for the wood pellets supply chain compared to the local supply chain of wood chips and pelletchips. Results from the simplified cost accounting showed the potential of pelletchips to reach a competitive sale price and to substitute partly wood pellets. Social LCA results pointed out as hotspot of the supply chain the very high risk of occupational injuries and fatal accidents for the Italian forestry sector. Indeed, it is to recommend developing new indicators more appropriate for assessing the social impacts of forestry operations.
The Biomass Resource USes and Availability model (BRUSA) developed by the host institution was used for evaluating the woody biomass supply versus the demand for heating from pelletchips specifically for chestnut coppice forests type. The balance among supply and demand was then plotted in GIS maps. In the case study of Rossetto Legnami, e.g., the supply from chestnut coppice forests exceeded largely the demand, highlighting the great potential of satisfying the energy demand using biomass from coppice forests.
The main outcome of the STSM was the development of a methodological framework for assessing the sustainability of wood fuels production from traditional forest coppice through the combination of three tools: LCSA, BRUSA and GIS. This framework can give some answers to decision makers regarding strategic planning addressed to coppice forest management (from the sustainability aspects to the resource availability) and it is applicable in other countries as Scandinavia, after appropriate modifications.
In conclusion, the COST action was a successful networking experience that could lead to future collaboration.