• Open Access

Projecting future grassland productivity to assess the sustainability of potential biofuel feedstock areas in the Greater Platte River Basin



This study projects future (e.g., 2050 and 2099) grassland productivities in the Greater Platte River Basin (GPRB) using ecosystem performance (EP, a surrogate for measuring ecosystem productivity) models and future climate projections. The EP models developed from a previous study were based on the satellite vegetation index, site geophysical and biophysical features, and weather and climate drivers. The future climate data used in this study were derived from the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Model 3.0 ‘SRES A1B’ (a ‘middle’ emissions path). The main objective of this study is to assess the future sustainability of the potential biofuel feedstock areas identified in a previous study. Results show that the potential biofuel feedstock areas (the more mesic eastern part of the GPRB) will remain productive (i.e., aboveground grassland biomass productivity >2750 kg ha−1 year−1) with a slight increasing trend in the future. The spatially averaged EPs for these areas are 3519, 3432, 3557, 3605, 3752, and 3583 kg ha−1 year−1 for current site potential (2000–2008 average), 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050, and 2099, respectively. Therefore, the identified potential biofuel feedstock areas will likely continue to be sustainable for future biofuel development. On the other hand, grasslands identified as having no biofuel potential in the drier western part of the GPRB would be expected to stay unproductive in the future (spatially averaged EPs are 1822, 1691, 1896, 2306, 1994, and 2169 kg ha−1 year−1 for site potential, 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050, and 2099). These areas should continue to be unsuitable for biofuel feedstock development in the future. These future grassland productivity estimation maps can help land managers to understand and adapt to the expected changes in future EP in the GPRB and to assess the future sustainability and feasibility of potential biofuel feedstock areas.