Environmental impacts of biofuels

Bioenergy production can also have significant negative environmental and social impacts. Depending on which crops are produced, bioenergy developments can lead to deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, excessive water use, land use conflicts, food shortages and staple food crop price spikes.


 

  • Land use change: To produce biofuels, crops need to br grown first. In places where arable land is not available, ecosystems are converted into agricultural use, and in some instances crops are switched to meet the demand of the biofuel market. This is a problem where agricultural land that was formerly used to meet local food needs is changed to produce crops for biofuel production, potentially threatening local food security.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: When land is cleared to grow crops for biofuel production, carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) is released into the atmosphere due to burning of vegetation. The amount of carbon dioxide that is released depends on the type of ecosystem that is being converted.
  • Wildlife: As natural ecosystems are replaced by agricultural land, the habitat of local wildlife is reduced and fragmented, reducing biodiversity and decreasing ecosystem services. Such is the case with expanding corn and soybean monocultures.
  • Water: Agricultural areas often require vast amounts of water for irrigation. Moreover, pesticides and fertilizers used for crop production can also threaten water quality.
 / ©: Joel Dinda
Biofuel crop. Michigan, USA. (CC licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/)
© Joel Dinda

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