Environmental, Social & Economic Impacts projects

Regional Environmental Impacts of Biofuel Feedstock Production-Scaling Biogeochemical Cycles in Space and Time - Completed

This project identified the environmental impacts, particularly with regard to the hydrologic cycle, of altering the landscape in the Midwestern U.S. to accommodate biofuel feedstock species, primarily switchgrass and Miscanthus. The team modified an ecosystem model (Agro-IBIS) to represent the biogeochemical processes associated with biofuel crops sugarcane, switchgrass and Miscanthus giganteus. Predicting these impacts was accomplished through the development of numerical models that are mechanistic and allow the vegetation to respond to multiple environmental factors such as climate variability.

project Highlights

2010 Highlights

Bernacchi and his groups modified the Agro-IBIS dynamic vegetation model to simulate the production of Miscanthus and switchgrass and used it to quantify the regional hydrologic cycle impacts of Miscanthus production based on varying fractions of land in production. They quantified several metrics for regional-scale water-use efficiency using Miscanthus, switchgrass, and maize and began coupled simulations with a streamflow model (THMB) to assess impacts of varying levels of Miscanthus and switchgrass production on streamflow and water quality in the Mississippi basin.

2009 Highlights

The group developed a biofuel algorithm that represents the growth and management of Miscanthus for the Agro-IBIS terrestrial ecosystem model. They used the algorithm to simulate various scenarios of Miscanthus production, ranging from 10% to 100% of land area, to evaluate the impacts on the regional hydrologic cycle. Their results showed that simulated fraction cover of 25% or greater will increase evapotranspiration (ET) and decrease drainage and nutrient transport. These changes vary seasonally and are largest outside of the Corn Belt, suggesting that hydrologic impacts of Miscanthus production are dependent upon location and fraction cover.

 

Publications

Published in 2010

Comparison of Canopy Evapotranspiration for Maize and Two Perennial Grasses Identified as Potential Bioienergy Crops, George Hickman, Andy VanLoocke, Frank Dohleman, Carl Bernacchi, Global Change Biology-Bioenergy, 2(4), pp. 157-168, August 2010.

 


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