Your article entitled “Commission floats ‘weak' criteria for biomass” (EuropeanVoice.com, 15 August), highlighted how the biomass industry in Europe asserts that strong forest sustainability criteria are unnecessary for biomass because most of the wood imported to be burned in Europe's power stations comes from forests in North America, and not from countries with a “troubling history of land degradation such as Indonesia and Brazil.” But, in the Southern United States, the leading exporter of wood pellets to Europe, there are virtually no laws regulating industrial forestry on private lands which make up 90% of the forests in the region.
Just like Indonesia and Brazil, this region of the world is a hot spot for biodiversity (home to the most biologically-diverse temperate forests in the world) and does have a “troubling history of land degradation”. Tens of millions of acres of natural forests across this region of the world have been destroyed to make way for fast-growing industrial tree plantations. This practice has contributed to a well-documented, significant decline in hardwood wetland forests and the near disappearance of entire ecosystems, such as the long-leaf pine savannahs, which has brought countless species to the brink of extinction. Destructive clearcutting in remaining natural forests, including wetlands, is increasingly common with the explosive growth in the wood pellet export market to Europe.
For example, Enviva, the South's largest exporter of wood pellets to Europe, relies on clearcutting in hardwood wetland forests to make its pellets.
In addition to storing substantial amounts of carbon in the standing trees and soil, the slow-growing bottomland hardwood forests along the US Atlantic Coastal Plain buffer natural and human communities from storms and floods, maintain water quality of rivers and estuaries, and provide critical habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife. Yet the bottomland forests that once covered this region have been reduced to a mere fraction of their original extent.
In the absence of strict, binding sustainability criteria, what remains of this and other important ecosystems throughout the Southern US is increasingly threatened by clearcutting to supply fuel to European utility companies like Drax.