Bioenergy cropland expansion may offset positive effects of climate change mitigation for global vertebrate diversity

Research Highlight

Biofuels could threaten biodiversity

© Jan-Otto/Getty

Growing enough bioenergy crops to counter climate change could be as bad for biodiversity as continuing to burn fossil fuels.

The threats to wildlife if global temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial level are well studied, yet little is known about the effects of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A team that included researchers from the Technical University of Munich modelled how climate change and land-use change would affect the distribution of land animals, under low- and high-emission scenarios.

Biofuels from oil palm, maize and rapeseed could help meet the low-emission target, but the crops would take over 4% of global land. The team found that the resultant habitat destruction would cause biodiversity losses that are not offset by the benefits of reducing global warming, particularly in the tropics.

Carefully considering the effects of land use change on biodiversity is essential when evaluating whether to expand the use of biofuels.

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  1. PNAS 115, 13294–13299 (2018). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1807745115
Institutions Authors Share
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F), Germany
Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany
Durham University, United Kingdom (UK)
Goethe University Frankfurt (GU), Germany