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Impacts of Liquid Biofuels on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity
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This report was written by Per M. Stromberg, Alexandros Gasparatos, Janice S.H. Lee, John Garcia-Ulloa, Lian Pin Koh, and Kazuhiko Takeuchi

The report is available for download here.

Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Biofuels can provide a number of ecosystem services (e.g. fuel, climate regulation) but also compromise other ecosystem services (e.g. food, freshwater services) and biodiversity which are of paramount value for human well-being. However, knowledge about the effect of biofuels on ecosystem services and biodiversity is fragmented and in some cases is still only emerging. Moreover, the effect depends on several interconnected factors.

This report collects and critically discusses the existing literature regarding the drivers, impacts, and trade-offs involved in biofuel production. In particular, the ecosystem services concept can be used to rationalise and put into perspective the existing evidence about biofuels’ impact on ecosystems as it has been identified by diverse academic disciplines.

By employing the classification of ecosystem services popularised by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), it is shown how biofuel production both provides and compromises ecosystem services over its life cycle. At the same time, it is shown that biofuels can negatively affect biodiversity. In fact, biofuel expansion in certain areas of the world, such as Indonesia and Brazil, is being considered as one of the main emerging threats to biodiversity.

With these findings in mind, this report concludes by discussing certain response options that can be further developed to enhance the long-term sustainability of biofuels by minimising their impact on ecosystem services and biodiversity. The key responses discussed include the use of degraded land for the production of biofuel feedstock, the adoption of improved management practices, the development of designer landscapes, and the adoption of innovative schemes such as Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and biofuel certification.

UNU-IAS/2010/No. 1
ISBN 978-92-808-4519-8
October 2010, 54 pages
Download report as a .pdf file
(819 KB)

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