Grassland futures in Great Britain – Productivity assessment and scenarios for land use change opportunities
Holland, Robert A.
Richter, Goetz M.
To optimise trade-offs provided by future changes in grassland use intensity, spatially and temporally explicit estimates of respective grassland productivities are required at the systems level. Here, we benchmark the potential national availability of grassland biomass, identify optimal strategies for its management, and investigate the relative importance of intensification over reversion (prioritising productivity versus environmental ecosystem services). Process-conservative meta-models for different grasslands were used to calculate the baseline dry matter yields (DMY; 1961–1990) at 1 km2 resolution for the whole UK. The effects of climate change, rising atmospheric [CO2] and technological progress on baseline DMYs were used to estimate future grassland productivities (up to 2050) for low and medium CO2 emission scenarios of UKCP09. UK benchmark productivities of 12.5, 8.7 and 2.8 t/ha on temporary, permanent and rough-grazing grassland, respectively, accounted for productivity gains by 2010. By 2050, productivities under medium emission scenario are predicted to increase to 15.5 and 9.8 t/ha on temporary and permanent grassland, respectively, but not on rough grassland. Based on surveyed grassland distributions for Great Britain in 2010 the annual availability of grassland biomass is likely to rise from 64 to 72 million tonnes by 2050. Assuming optimal N application could close existing productivity gaps of ca. 40% a range of management options could deliver additional 21 ∗ 106 tonnes of biomass available for bioenergy. Scenarios of changes in grassland use intensity demonstrated considerable scope for maintaining or further increasing grassland production and sparing some grassland for the provision of environmental ecosystem services.