North Carolina State and USGS find bioenergy may impact wildlife in the southeast

September 28, 2016 |

In North Carolina, research from North Carolina State University and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds that choosing how to meet bioenergy goals means making trade-offs about which wildlife species and ecosystems will be most impacted. The work focuses on the southeastern United States, but yields general insights that could inform bioenergy policy globally.

“There are questions about how renewable energy targets that promote bioenergy may affect wildlife habitat and forest ecosystems. We wanted to better understand the potential impacts of bioenergy demand in North Carolina and, by extension, in the Southeast and beyond,” said the lead researcher from NC State.

To address these questions, the researchers first developed models that allowed them to translate bioenergy demand into projections of changes in the size and characteristics of ecosystems. The researchers found that the specific mix of biomass sources used to meet demand could play a significant role in shaping ecosystems, especially in forests that contain high biodiversity.

The researchers found that realistic levels of bioenergy demand are large enough to cause large gains or losses of habitat for some species, and the specific mix of biomass sources used to meet demand resulted in tradeoffs regarding wildlife habitats.

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