Poplar plantations: a source of renewable energy but offering controversial landscapes

Abstract : Nowadays, there is a growing need for renewable energy, especially wood energy. France has an asset: its vast area of forest, all the more since it is well managed, since a long time. The forest plantations are an old task: in the 19th century, large areas of “unproductive lands” were planted especially with pines. Yet, some forest plantations are at the hearth of controversies, especially due to the landscapes they offer. They are poplar plantations, which I studied in a framework of a research program funded by the French Ministry of Agriculture and focused on these plantations in the Loire valley. In this paper, I will reveal the first results of this research, basing on literature, field surveys and, above all, some accounts of main actors. These ones were gathered mainly during the meetings of the project, in which take part actors of the poplar industry but also actors in favor of the protection of landscapes and nature. Poplars are mainly used for the production of lightweight packaging and plywood. But some by-products result from logging or production process and they are especially used as wood energy. Thus, in the Loire valley, poplars can be considered as an important local source of energy for collective or individual boiler rooms. But the poplar industry is faced with a wood shortage: the planted areas are not renewed and thus decrease. This fact can be explained by a conjunction of factors: decrease of public financial assistance, diseases affecting poplars, change of the owner profiles… But it has also to be linked to the controversies about the landscapes transformation resulting from these plantations, knowing that the stakes are higher in the part of the Loire valley registered on the Unesco World Heritage list. Some consider poplar plantations as forests, whereas they are crops for others, thinking that they are artificial and make landscapes unnatural, altering them. But the critics can also be conflicting: some could favor well managed poplar plantations, whereas others prefer plantation with a dense understory. The landscapes quality is subjective and finding a compromise is a difficult task: the solution could be in a best distribution of different kind of poplar plantations.
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Submitted on : Saturday, September 15, 2018 - 9:31:39 PM
Last modification on : Monday, September 17, 2018 - 9:15:36 AM

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Amélie Robert. Poplar plantations: a source of renewable energy but offering controversial landscapes. Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape (PECSRL) 2018: European Landscapes for Quality of life?, « Territoires » (Agro Paris Tech, Clermont Auvergne University, INRA, IRSTEA, VetAgro Sup), Sep 2018, Clermont-Ferrand et Mende, France. ⟨halshs-01875015⟩

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