Sustainability Indicators of Biomass Production in Agroforestry Systems


Production of biomass for bioenergy will depend on the sustainability of the production resource-base: the soil, water, air and the diversity of the ecosystem as a whole. For soil, potential sustainability indicators, including soil nitrogen and phosphorus, total organic matter, components associated with soil erosion and bulk density are discussed. Indicators related to the water resource water quality, water availability index, nitrate levels in water and biological oxygen demand are also discussed. Greenhouse gases and their sequestration potentials are discussed for maintaining atmospheric air quality. For biodiversity, a biodiversity index and soil biota index were selected as potential indicators. In addition to the production resource-base, the paper also discusses the importance of economic and social sustainability indices. To summarize, we are suggesting that a common method of visualizing the above indicated indices is to generate amoeba diagrams. This paper also provides a review on the term ‘sustainability’ and specific indicators, with metrics where possible, are described as candidates for inclusion as potential indicators appropriate for agroforestry based bioenergy systems in Canada. Three agroforestry based bioenergy systems are described and specific indicators are discussed within the bounds of these systems.

Keywords: Agroforestry, bioenergy, poplar, sustainability indicators, willow, woody biomass.