The implications of large-scale irrigated bioenergy plantations for future water use and water stress

PhD Project

To limit climate change, the implementation of large bioenergy plantations with subsequent carbon capture and storage (BECCS) has been proposed as a method for terrestrial carbon dioxide removal (tCDR).

BECCS is essential for many future climate scenarios that limit warming to below 2°C as required by the Paris Agreement of 2015. However, large bioenergy plantations require a lot of land and water for irrigation.

This project provides a first systematic assessment of 21st century global irrigation water demands for bioenergy production. It includes a model-based analysis of the potential of optimal bioenergy plantation locations and sustainable water management for achieving the 1.5°C target. Finally the water stress resulting from additional irrigation needed to limit climate change is modelled and compared with the water stress in a 3°C warmer world.

Within the German Research Foundation (DFG) priority program (SPP) ”Climate Engineering: Risks, Challenges, Opportunities?” (SPP 1689), this work is integrated into the CE-Land+ project.


Stenzel, F., Greve, P., Lucht, W., Tramberend, S., Wada, Y., Gerten, D.: Irrigation of biomass plantations may globally increase water stress more than climate change. Nat Commun 12, 1512. (2021)

Stenzel, F., Gerten, D., and Hanasaki, N.: Global scenarios of irrigation water use for bioenergy production: a systematic review, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 25, 1711-1726. (2021)

Stenzel, F., Gerten, D., Werner, C., Jägermeyr, J.: Freshwater requirements of large-scale bioenergy plantations for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 084001. (2019)