Fletcher Jr., R. J., B. A. Robertson, J. Evans, P. J. Doran, J. R. Alavalapati, and D. W. Schemske. 2011. Biodiversity conservation in the era of biofuels: Risks and opportunities. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9:161-168.
Growing demand for alternative energy sources has contributed to increased biofuel production, but the effects on biodiversity of land-use change to biofuel crops remain unclear. Using a meta-analysis for crops being used or considered in the US, we find that vertebrate diversity and abundance are generally lower in biofuel crop habitats relative to the non-crop habitats that these crops may replace. Diversity effects are greater for corn than for pine and poplar, and birds of conservation concern experience greater negative effects from corn than species of less concern. Yet conversion of row-crop fields to grasslands dedicated to biofuels could increase local diversity and abundance of birds. To minimize impacts of biofuel crops on biodiversity, we recommend management practices that reduce chemical inputs, increase heterogeneity within fields, and delay harvests until bird breeding has ceased. We encourage research that will move us toward a sustainable biofuels economy, including the use of native plants, development of robust environmental criteria for evaluating biofuel crops, and integrated cost–benefit analysis of potential land-use change.
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