Navigation Links
Beyond the corn field: Balancing fuel, food and biodiversity
Date:2/16/2010

The development of alternative fuel will greatly benefit the U.S., say scientists in an Energy Foundation-funded report published today by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the nation's largest organization of ecological scientists. However, in order to effectively reap the social and economic benefits of biofuel production, U.S. policies need to address potential effects of land-use choices on our ecosystems.

In the report, scientists Virginia Dale, Keith Kline, John Wiens and Joseph Fargione review the current research on biofuel production and its potential effects on ecosystems. They also analyze the social, economic and ecological challenges of biofuel production and the most effective routes to developing sustainable, renewable fuel alternatives.

Biofuels are liquid fuels derived from biological materials, such as plant stems and stalks, vegetable oils, forest products or waste materials. The raw materials, called feedstock, can be grown specifically for fuel purposes or can be derived from existing sources such as agricultural residue or municipal garbage.

"There are several methods of biofuel production, all of which affect the ecological systems around us in ways that can reap benefits if feedstock type, management, transport and production choices are appropriate for the setting," says Virginia Dale from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN. "In order to balance increasing demands on land for urban, industrial and agricultural use, policies need to incorporate socioeconomic and ecological principles in view of current and past land uses. Existing research provides the basis for weighing the costs and benefits of the different options for feedstocks, management and production within an overall design for sustainability of ecosystem services within a region."

The report addresses feedstock options and their potential land-use effects, the influences of farm policies on allocating acreage, the complexities of land use, carbon emissions and biofuel production assessments, the "food versus fuel" and water usage costs and benefits associated with biofuel expansion, and the elements needed to maximize social, economic and ecological benefits in bioenergy system design.

"To clarify the tradeoffs associated with land use for food production, bioenergy crops, biodiversity protection and other societal needs, it is critical to develop an effective landscape approach," says John Wiens from PRBO Conservation Science in Petaluma, CA. "For example, native perennial crops have shown great promise: they have vast environmental and economic benefits on both the local and national levels."

The ESA report recommends native perennial cropssuch as switchgrassas an inexpensive feedstock option. Research shows that these plants improve soil quality, provide habitat for native species, limit soil erosion and filter nutrients and contaminants. These plants can also serve as a buffer to existing annual cropssuch as corn, soybeans and wheatby reducing pest invasion and agricultural run-off, and limiting the need for chemical applications.

The researchers estimate there are approximately 51 to 67 million hectares of available U.S. land that could be used for native perennial crops; those areas could produce as much as 321 million tons of biomass per year.

"Perennial crops are just one of the many options available to decision-makers," says Wiens. "Urban wastes and leftovers or residues from industrial processing can also be used as feedstocks. The report analyzes these and other options and the many challenges Americans will face as we continue to increase biofuel production."


'/>"/>

Contact: Katie Kline
katie@esa.org
202-833-8773 x211
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Beyond batteries: Storing power in a sheet of paper
2. Shrimps see beyond the rainbow
3. UCLA world summit to explore ancient life on Earth, and beyond
4. Research-based undergraduate course expands beyond Washington University
5. Researchers push nature beyond its limits to create higher-density biofuels
6. Beyond ooh-ooh, aah-aah-- expert on monkey communication kicks off Darwin series, May 5
7. Frost & Sullivan Looks at Biometrics Advancement in Civil Security: Exploring Opportunities for Today and Beyond
8. Beyond genomics, biologists and engineers decode the next frontier
9. Beyond sunlight: Explorers census 17,650 ocean species between edge of darkness and black abyss
10. Homebuilding beyond the abyss
11. Cellulosic biofuel technology will generate low-cost green fuel, says major study
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/5/2017)...  The Allen Institute for Cell Science today announces ... portal and dynamic digital window into the human cell. ... application of deep learning to create predictive models of ... a growing suite of powerful tools. The Allen Cell ... publicly available resources created and shared by the Allen ...
(Date:4/3/2017)... WASHINGTON , April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ... single-cell precision engineering platform, detected a statistically ... cell product prior to treatment and objective ... highlight the potential to predict whether cancer ... prior to treatment, as well as to ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... 29, 2017  higi, the health IT company that ... North America , today announced a Series B ... of EveryMove. The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s ... to transform population health activities through the collection and ... higi collects and secures data today on behalf ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:9/21/2017)... ... September 21, 2017 , ... ... enable the world’s most progressive pharma and biotech organizations to do more clinical ... pharma and biotech events in Q4. , DrugDev will demonstrate DrugDev Spark™, the ...
(Date:9/20/2017)... ... September 20, 2017 , ... The award-winning ... Services (Koch) to feature new innovations aimed at helping farmers solve the problem ... American Farmer airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. Check your local listings for ...
(Date:9/20/2017)... ... September 20, 2017 , ... ... study examining the effects of exoskeleton-assisted walking on gait parameters and neuromuscular ... article, "Neuromechanical adaptations during a robotic powered exoskeleton assisted walking session" (doi:10.1080.10790268.2017.1314900) ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... ... , ... Participants of this educational webinar will learn the ... the advantages and disadvantages of ductless, filtered fume hoods, they will also discover ... Attendees will learn from an industry expert about the different types of ducted ...
Breaking Biology Technology: