The total mass of living matter (on a planet or spatial region). An important aspect of the Gaea Hypothesis, and therefore a critical element of the SimEarth computer game.

In the energy industry, biomass refers to any carbohydrate-based raw material used for fuel (as opposed to hydrocarbon-based). Biomass includes agricultural waste (rice straw, wheat straw), fast-growing plants (alfalfa, switchgrass), animal waste, wood waste (sawdust, waste paper, tree trimmings), and food and food processing wastes (runoff from sugar, starch, and cheese production, used vegetable oils, cf. biodiesel). Producers point to benefits such as rural economic development and a closed carbon cycle (the carbon dioxide produced when the fuel is burned is offset by the carbon sink created in growing the fuel).

Sources: American Bioenergy Association, 2000, <http://www.biomass.org/> (3 April 2002)
Western Regional Biomass Energy Program, <http://www.westbioenergy.org/> (3 April 2002)

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