Biodiversity Services and Bioenergy Landscapes (E3164)

Biodiversity Services and Bioenergy Landscapes (E3164)

Growing bioenergy crops will transform agricultural landscapes and affect the services they deliver.

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Landscape structure and ecosystem services

The 21st century will challenge agriculture to feed and fuel a growing world while conserving the environment1,2. Modern production techniques have facilitated tremendous gains in crop yields, allowing farmers to feed a significant portion of the world. However, these increases in yields have relied heavily on intensive use of fertilizer and pesticides1, which have polluted some ground and surface waters (http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa). At the same time, the footprint of agriculture has expanded to cover nearly 40 percent of the earth’s ice-free surface2. This simultaneous intensification and expansion of agriculture has caused losses in biodiversity and reduced habitat for beneficial organisms like insect pollinators and predators3,4. Increasingly, our society is also demanding that farmland produce bioenergy as a clean, domestic source of energy. For example, the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act sets the goal of producing 46 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. This begs the question: How can agriculture produce bioenergy, feed a growing world population and do so in a sustainable way? A key part of the answer may be an increased focus on the full set of ecosystem services that agricultural landscapes provide.

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