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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: LAND USE AND MANAGEMENT EFFECTS ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSES AND HYDROLOGY IN COASTAL PLAIN WATERSHEDS Title: Bioenergy Sustainability at the Regional-Scale

Authors
item Dale, Virginia -
item Lowrance, Robert
item Mulholland, Patrick -
item Robertson, G -

Submitted to: Ecology and Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 26, 2010
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Citation: Dale, V., Lowrance, R.R., Mulholland, P., Robertson, G.P. 2010. Bioenergy Sustainability at the Regional-Scale. Ecology and Society. 15(4):23. Available: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art23/.

Interpretive Summary: There are expected to be large increases in acreage planted to dedicated biofuels crops to meet national goals for biofuels production,. These acreages may be in perennial grasses, annual crops, short rotation woody crops, or other types of vegetation and may involve use of existing cropland, marginal lands, abandoned lands or conversion of forest land. The establishment of bioenergy crops will affect ecological processes and their interactions and thus have an influence on ecosystem services provided by the lands on which these crops are grown. Ecosystem services are the societal benefits obtained from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as flood and disease control; cultural services such as spiritual, recreational, and cultural benefits; and supporting services such as nutrient cycling that maintain the conditions for life on Earth. The regional-scale effects of bioenergy choices on ecosystem services need special attention because they often have been neglected yet can affect the ecological, social and economic aspects of sustainability. A regional-scale perspective provides the opportunity to make more informed choices about crop selection and management, particularly with regard to water quality and quantity issues, and also about other aspects of ecological, social, and economic sustainability. We give special attention to cellulosic feedstocks because of the opportunities they provide. Adopting an adaptive management approach for biofuels feedstock production planning will be possible to a certain extent if there is adequate monitoring data on the effects of changes in land use. Effects on water resources are used as an example and existing understanding of water resource effects are analyzed in detail. Current results indicate that there may be water quality improvements coupled with some decreases in available water for downstream uses.

Technical Abstract: To meet national goals for biofuels production, there are going to be large increases in acreage planted to dedicated biofuels crops. These acreages may be in perennial grasses, annual crops, short rotation woody crops, or other types of vegetation and may involve use of existing cropland, marginal lands, abandoned lands or conversion of forest land. The establishment of bioenergy crops will affect ecological processes and their interactions and thus have an influence on ecosystem services provided by the lands on which these crops are grown. The regional-scale effects of bioenergy choices on ecosystem services need special attention because they often have been neglected yet can affect the ecological, social and economic aspects of sustainability. A regional-scale perspective provides the opportunity to make more informed choices about crop selection and management, particularly with regard to water quality and quantity issues, and also about other aspects of ecological, social, and economic sustainability. We give special attention to cellulosic feedstocks because of the opportunities they provide. Adopting an adaptive management approach for biofuels feedstock production planning will be possible to a certain extent if there is adequate monitoring data on the effects of changes in land use. Effects on water resources are used as an example and existing understanding of water resource effects are analyzed in detail. Current results indicate that there may be water quality improvements coupled with some decreases in available water for downstream uses.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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