Studies by researchers at Michigan State University indicate that using grasslands can be useful for biofuel stock as well as helping protect bird species.
Much of the current domestic ethanol production is corn based, although there are numerous criticisms against this approach. Cellulosic methods such as using prairie grasses for ethanol production do not produce 'food-or-fuel' conflicts, and can be equal or better yielding feedstocks for the process than corn or sugar. And, according to MSU biologist Bruce Robertson, using grasslands to produce biofuel feedstock would also provide habitat for a more diverse population of birds.
"Robertson and colleagues found that bugs and the birds that feed on them thrive more in mixed prairie grasses than in corn. Almost twice as many species made their homes in grasses, while plots of switchgrass, a federally designated model fuel crop, fell between the two in their ability to sustain biodiversity."
Converting even more land over to undifferentiated monoculture crops for biofuel is likely to be a short-sighted decision, and could lead to further decline of bird species. Developing methods to make fuel by using diverse grasslands could be doubly beneficial, aiding the protection of bird species as well as providing a more carbon sensitive alternative for producing fuel.
image: Matt Sileo/MSU
via: MSU News