© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Edited By: Steve Long
Impact Factor: 4.248
ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2013: 2/78 (Agronomy); 12/82 (Energy & Fuels)
Online ISSN: 1757-1707
Associated Title(s): Global Change Biology
Bioenergy and the Conservation of biodiversity
Land-use change is known to be of one of the major drivers for biodiversity loss. Biodiversity — the variety of life in a given ecosystem or habitat — is important because it boosts the function and productivity of an ecosystem. Each species within an ecosystem fulfils a role that sustains processes that provide anything from clean water and food production to medicines and fuel. When considering the development of plant-based fuels for use as bioenergy, it must be noted that there is an expected increase in land-usage for production, either through land conversion or transformation of existing farmland. Such an increase in land-use could potentially threaten biodiversity.
The increase of bioenergy production is expected to have both positive and negative impacts on biodiversity. The conversion of natural habitats or other high value lands to bioenergy cropping could bring about a loss of biodiversity due to land-use change. For example, the change from native plants to bioenergy crops in a given area could destroy nesting areas and food sources for some animals.
Alternatively, the cultivation of bioenergy crops may be beneficial for biodiversity by enhancing the habitat heterogeneity in farmlands. If abandoned or marginal lands are utilized for energy production, this creates a definite increase in biodiversity. Life will begin to populate areas where previously, there was none.
Literature has indicated that potential impacts of bioenergy on biodiversity cannot be expected to follow a predictable pattern. Whether or not biodiversity of an ecosystem will experience positive or negative impacts depends on many compounding factors: regional circumstances, location of production, type of land shifts involved, the management practices of the crop that is established, extent of production, and many others.
In expectations of full commercial bioenergy production at regional or landscape scales, and considering the great number of uncertainties surrounding the biodiversity of bioenergy systems, the papers of this Special Issue apply diverse approaches to identify the impacts of bioenergy cropping on biodiversity by examining a variety of taxa, agroecosystems and landscapes. The production of plant-based biofuels is expected to increase through the next few decades; it is through these studies that the authors hope to provide a stronger framework for future biodiversity assessments.