Full Title: The Ecological Impact of Biofuels
Author(s): Fargione JE, Plevin RJ, Hill JD
Publisher(s): Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
Publication Date: 12/2010
Length: 29 pages, PDF
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The ecological impact of biofuels is mediated through their effects on land, air, and water. In 2008, about 33.3 million ha were used to produce food-based biofuels and their coproducts. Biofuel production from food crops is expected to increase 170% by 2020. Economic model estimates for land-use change (LUC) associated with food-based biofuels are 67–365 ha 10−6 l−1, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions for decades compared to business as usual. Biodiversity is reduced by about 60% in U.S. corn and soybean fields and by about 85% in Southeast Asian oil palm plantations compared to unconverted habitat. Consequently, the largest ecological impact of biofuel production may well come from market-mediated LUC. Mitigating this impact requires targeting biofuel production to degraded and abandoned cropland and rangeland; increasing crop yields and livestock production efficiency; use of wastes, residues, and wildlife-friendly crops; and compensatory offsite mitigation for residual direct and indirect impacts.