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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 03 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Spatially variable hydrologic impact and biomass production tradeoffs associated with Eucalyptus cultivation for biofuel production in Entre Rios, Argentina

Azad Heidari1, David Watkins Jr.1, Alex Mayer1, Tamara Propato2,3,4, Santiago Verón2,3,4, and Diego de Abelleyra5 Azad Heidari et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, 49931, USA
  • 2INTA, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria, Argentina
  • 3CONICET, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina
  • 4FAUBA, Facultad de Agronomía de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 5INTA, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Abstract. Climate change and energy security promotes using renewable sources of energy such as biofuels. High woody biomass production achieved from short rotation intensive plantations is an appealing strategy that is growing in many parts of the world. However, broad expansion of bioenergy feedstock production may have significant environmental consequences. This study investigates the watershed-scale hydrological impacts of eucalyptus plantations for energy production in a humid subtropical watershed in Entre Rios province, Argentina. A Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was calibrated and validated for streamflow, leaf area index (LAI), and biomass production cycles. The model was used to simulate various eucalyptus plantation scenarios that followed physically-based rules for land use conversion (in various sizes and locations in the watershed) to study hydrological effects, biomass production and the green water footprint of energy production. SWAT simulations indicated that the most limiting factor for plant growth was shallow soils causing seasonal water stress. This resulted in a wide range of biomass productivity throughout the watershed. An optimization algorithm was developed to find the best location for eucalyptus development regarding highest productivity with least water impact. Eucalyptus plantations had higher evapotranspiration rates among terrestrial land cover classes; therefore, intensive land use conversion to eucalyptus caused a decline in streamflow, with February, January and March being the most affected months. October was the least-affected month hydrologically, since high rainfall rates overcame the canopy interception and higher ET rates of eucalyptus in this month. Results indicate that, on average, producing 1 kg of biomass in this region uses 0.8 m3 of water, and the green water footprint of producing 1 m3 fuel is approximately 2150 m3 water, or 57 m3 water per GJ of energy, which is lower than reported values for wood-based ethanol, sugar cane ethanol and soybean biodiesel.

Azad Heidari et al.
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Azad Heidari et al.
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Short summary
Bioenergy and biofuels are renewable energy sources with potential to mitigate climate change and promote energy security. However, large-scale bioenergy feedstock development can have adverse water and environmental impacts. This study uses computer simulation to predict the hydrologic impacts of eucalyptus development for bioenergy in a case study watershed in Argentina. Results show trade offs between water supply and energy production and provide insights to best management practices.
Bioenergy and biofuels are renewable energy sources with potential to mitigate climate change...