JNCC commissioned report highlights Indirect Land Use Change
impacts on Biodiversity worldwide
JNCC commissioned the UNEP-WCMC to analyse the
impacts of indirect land use change on biodiversity caused by
biofuel production. The report – titled Indirect Land Use Change from biofuel
production: implications for biodiversity – is now
available and highlights a so far little understood threat to
biodiversity and ecosystem services. To date, indirect land use
change has mostly been discussed as a problem in terms of
greenhouse gas emissions, but as the report shows it also has major
implications for biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide.
Attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport
sector have led to political and financial incentives to increase
the use of biofuel in transport fuels. A target set in 2008 at a
European Summit requires the UK and other EU member states to
source 10% of their transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020.
In effect this means a 10% biofuel target since other technologies
are not yet commercially available.
Direct impacts of unsustainable biofuel production on
biodiversity and ecosystem services, including habitat loss,
drainage of wetlands, increased agro-chemical use, water
abstraction and impacts on soil and air quality are fairly well
understood and researched. However, a new and little understood
threat to biodiversity has recently emerged: the impact that
indirect land use change (ILUC) has on biodiversity and ecosystems
around the world. ILUC occurs when for example, a farmer switches
his production of arable crops or livestock to energy crops to
fulfil the new demand for bioenergy. The demand for arable crops
and livestock still exists and may be met through clearing new land
to accommodate the crops or livestock, possibly in a different part
of the world.
Estimates suggest that the European biofuels target could lead
to ILUC of between 4.1. and 6.9 Mha by 2020 globally, in additon to
the estimated 33 Mha that are already used for bioenergy
production1. For comparrison
the UK has about 5 Mha of arable land.
The conversion of so much extra land will not only create
additonal greenhouse gas emissions but will also have major
implications for gloabl biodiversity and ecosystems.
1 Latest figures available are for 2008. Fargione, J.E.,
Plevin, R.J., Hill, J.D. 2010. The Ecological Impact of Biofuels.
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 41,