Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Effects of energy crops on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Intensive agricultural practices can be responsible for the loss of farmland biodiversity, and have knock-on consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services which benefit humans. Recent research as part of the SIMBIOSYS project, led by Jane Stout in the School of Natural Sciences and Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research, has quantified the effects of growing bioenergy crops on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Ireland. PhD student, Jesko Zimmermann, working with Prof Mike Jones, showed that even just two years after planting Miscanthus (a fast growing perennial grass grown for biofuel), a significant amount of carbon was already sequestered into soils (published in Global Change Biology Bioenergy). Furthermore, contrary to expectation, planting Miscanthus did not lead to significant losses in existing soil organic carbon stocks (published in European Journal of Soil Science). Jesko’s work also showed that within-crop patchiness of Miscanthus has a significant impact on payback time for initial investments by farmers and might reduce gross margins by about than 35% (published in Global Change Biology Bioenergy). Another PhD student, Dara Stanley, working with Jane Stout, investigated the effects of energy crops on pollinators and pollination and found that exclusion of pollinators from oilseed rape resulted in approximately 30% decrease in seed number and weight, equivalent to nearly €4 million per annum (published in Journal of Insect Conservation). Furthermore, Dara’s work showed that a wide range of pollinating insects use bioenergy fields (published in Journal of Applied Ecology) and that bees from more than 800 bumblebee colonies are attracted to individual oilseed rape fields (published in PLoS ONE). These studies, together with others by post-docs Jens Dauber and David Bourke who also worked on the SIMBIOSYS project, have substantially advanced understanding of the interactions between bioenergy crops and farmland biodiversity. The final report of the EPA-funded SIMBIOSYS project is available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment