The increased demand in biofuels will change how land in the southeast of the United States is being used and managed. This has a major effect on the regional biodiversity. Researchers from the Copernicus Institute have been working together with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and North Carolina State University to quantify these land use changes and their effects on the regional biodiversity.
The use of biomass for energy and materials is considered an essential option for replacing fossil fuels and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. In the last decades, wood pellets have increasingly been used in power plants to reduce the use of coal. The majority of the wood pellets consumed in Europe are produced from forest in the southeast of the United States.
Land use and land management changes
The projected increase in demand for wood pellets is expected to result in land use and land management changes in this region. There are major concerns on the effect of these land use and land management changes on the biodiversity in this region. The impact on biodiversity depends on local characteristics such as climate and land use, and therefore vary across the region.
“In our research we quantify the impact on biodiversity of the land use and land management changes”, explains Dr Floor van der Hilst. “These impacts are the result of an increased pellet demand on the total species, and species richness of threatened and endangered species as well as specific taxonomic groups such as mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians.”