Bioenergy and wildlife: Threats and opportunities for grassland conservation

Joseph E. Fargione, Thomas R. Cooper, David J. Flaspohler, Jason Hill, Clarence Lehman, Tim McCoy, Scott McLeod, Erik J. Nelson, Karen S. Oberhauser, David Tilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Demand for land to grow corn for ethanol increased in the United States by 4.9 million hectares between 2005 and 2008, with wide-ranging effects on wildlife, including habitat loss. Depending on how biofuels are made, additional production could have similar impacts. We present a framework for assessing the impacts of biofuels on wildlife, and we use this framework to evaluate the impacts of existing and emerging biofuels feedstocks on grassland wildlife. Meeting the growing demand for biofuels while avoiding negative impacts on wildlife will require either biomass sources that do not require additional land (e.g., wastes, residues, cover crops, algae) or crop production practices that are compatible with wildlife. Diverse native prairie offers a potential approach to bioenergy production (including fuel, electricity, and heat) that is compatible with wildlife. Additional research is required to assess the compatibility of wildlife with different composition, inputs, and harvest management approaches, and to address concerns over prairie yields versus the yields of other biofuel crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-777
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Perlack RD, Wright LL, Turhollow AF, Graham RL, Stokes BJ, Erbach DC. 2005. Biomass as feedstock for a bioenergy and bioproducts industry: The technical feasibility of a billion-ton annual supply. Joint study sponsored by the US Department of Energy and US Department of Agriculture. (27 July 2009; report2.pdf) Pikul JL, Hammack L, Riedell WE. 2005. Corn yield, nitrogen use, and corn rootworm infestation of rotations in the northern corn. Agronomy Journal 97: 854–863.


  • Biofuel
  • Cellulosic ethanol
  • Corn
  • Grassland
  • Wildlife


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