Lei, C., J. Chen, and G. P. Robertson. 2023. Climate cooling benefits of cellulosic bioenergy crops from elevated albedo. GCB Bioenergy 15:1373-1386.

Citable PDF link: https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/pub/4134

Changes in land surface albedo can alter ecosystem energy balance and potentially influence climate. We examined the albedo of six bioenergy cropping systems in southwest Michigan USA: monocultures of energy sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), and giant miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus), and polycultures of native grasses, early successional vegetation, and restored prairie. Direct field measurements of surface albedo (αs) from May 2018 through December 2020 at half-hourly intervals in each system quantified the magnitudes and seasonal differences in albedo (∆α) and albedo-induced radiative forcing (RF∆α). We used a nearby forest as a historical native cover type to estimate reference albedo and RF∆α change upon original land use conversion, and a continuous no-till maize (Zea mays L.) system as a contemporary reference to estimate change upon conversion from annual row crops. Annually, αs differed significantly (p < 0.05) among crops in the order: early successional (0.288 ± 0.012SE) >> miscanthus (0.271 ± 0.009) ≈ energy sorghum (0.270 ± 0.010) ≥ switchgrass (0.265 ± 0.009) ≈ restored prairie (0.264 ± 0.012) > native grasses (0.259 ± 0.010) > maize (0.247 ± 0.010). Reference forest had the lowest annual αs (0.134 ± 0.003). Albedo differences among crops during the growing season were also statistically significant, with growing season αs in perennial crops and energy sorghum on average ~20% higher (0.206 ± 0.003) than in no-till maize (0.184 ± 0.002). Average non-growing season (NGS) αs (0.370 ± 0.020) was much higher than growing season αs (0.203 ± 0.003) but these NGS differences were not significant. Overall, the original conversion of reference forest and maize landscapes to perennials provided a cooling effect on the local climate (RFαMAIZE: −3.83 ± 1.00 W m−2; RFαFOREST: −16.75 ± 3.01 W m−2). Significant differences among cropping systems suggest an additional management intervention for maximizing the positive climate benefit of bioenergy crops, with cellulosic crops on average ~9.1% more reflective than no-till maize, which itself was about twice as reflective as the reference forest.

DOI: 10.1111/gcbb.13098

Associated Treatment Areas:

G1 G5 G6 G7 G9 G10 G2

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