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Global bioenergy with carbon capture and storage potential is largely constrained by sustainable irrigation


Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is crucial in many stringent climate scenarios. Although irrigation can enhance BECCS potential, where and to what extent it can enhance global BECCS potential are unknown when constrained by preventing additional water stress and suppressing withdrawal of nonrenewable water resources. With a spatially explicit representation of bioenergy crop plantations and water cycle in an internally consistent model framework, we identified the irrigable bioenergy cropland on the basis of the water resources reserve. Irrigation of such cropland enhanced BECCS potential by only 5–6% (<60–71% for unconstrained irrigation) above the rain-fed potential (0.82–1.99 Gt C yr−1) by the end of this century. Nonetheless, it limited additional water withdrawal (166–298 km3 yr−1), especially from nonrenewable water sources (16–20%), compared with unconstrained irrigation (1,392–3,929 km3 yr−1 and 73–78%). Our findings highlight the importance of irrigation constraints in global BECCS potential.

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Fig. 1: Schematic figures showing the process used to develop the two land scenarios and the three distinct irrigation scenarios for bioenergy crop plantations.
Fig. 2: The global BECCS potential, corresponding bioenergy land area and additional irrigation water withdrawal under each combined scenario in 2090 (average of 2080–2099).
Fig. 3: Additional water stress due to additional irrigation water withdrawal for bioenergy crop plantations under PP_SI and PP_FI.
Fig. 4: Sensitivity tests for irrigated area, additional irrigation water withdrawal, non-sustainable water withdrawal and the BECCS potential with different WUFs and REFs.

Data availability

The AIM/Hub and AIM/PLUM outputs are available from the website The input meteorological data are available at All datasets used in this study are also available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The code and technical information about the H08 model are available at The code used for the simulation is also available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Z.A. and N.H. were supported by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (JPMEERF20202005 and JPMEERF15S11418) of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan. T.H. and S.F. were supported by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (JPMEERF20211001) of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan and the Sumitomo Foundation. T.H. was supported by the Ritsumeikan Global Innovation Research Organization (R-GIRO), Ritsumeikan University. We thank K. Takahashi, W. Wu and Y. Satoh for the discussion and technical support.

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Authors and Affiliations



N.H. and Z.A. conceived the research and designed the scenarios; Z.A. developed the code, conducted the simulation, analysed the data and prepared the manuscript; T.H. and S.F. contributed to the scenario design; N.H., V.H., T.H. and S.F. edited and improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zhipin Ai.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review Information Nature Sustainability thanks Vaibhav Chaturvedi and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 and Figs. 1–12.

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Ai, Z., Hanasaki, N., Heck, V. et al. Global bioenergy with carbon capture and storage potential is largely constrained by sustainable irrigation. Nat Sustain 4, 884–891 (2021).

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