Abstract In this article we developed a method to estimate forest biomass availability in a situation with small-scale privately owned forests and applied it to three administrative districts in Southern Germany where the majority of owners is organised in forest owners associations. Based on gross annual increment of regional forest resources we calculated a theoretical potential of above-ground biomass from which we subtracted technical and ecological constraints, e.g. restrictions resulting from conservation needs or nutrient removal. The resulting figure was the bio-technical potential of forest biomass. We then assessed the socio-economic potential of forest biomass by considering recent timber felling rates and log grading of owners. In order to determine market potential we differentiated between self-consumption and marketed timber. We compared the calculated potential and timber utilisation patterns of forest owners, deriving the additional supply potential of forest biomass. Most of the data were obtained by a stratified random interview of 226 private forest owners organised in forest owners associations. Although observed harvest intensity was high there was still a considerable potential for increased use of forest biomass. However, willingness of owners to intensify timber harvesting and to supply fuel wood on the basis of long-term contracts is a restriction to additional mobilisation of wood.