Contrasting effects of bioenergy crops on biodiversity

Nathan L. Haan, Gian N.M. Benucci, Cynthia M. Fiser, Gregory Bonito, Douglas A. Landis

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Agriculture is driving biodiversity loss, and future bioenergy cropping systems have the potential to ameliorate or exacerbate these effects. Using a long-term experimental array of 10 bioenergy cropping systems, we quantified diversity of plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and microbes in each crop. For many taxonomic groups, alternative annual cropping systems provided no biodiversity benefits when compared to corn (the business-as-usual bioenergy crop in the United States), and simple perennial grass–based systems provided only modest gains. In contrast, for most animal groups, richness in plant-diverse perennial systems was much higher than in annual crops or simple perennial systems. Microbial richness patterns were more eclectic, although some groups responded positively to plant diversity. Future agricultural landscapes incorporating plant-diverse perennial bioenergy cropping systems could be of high conservation value. However, increased use of annual crops will continue to have negative effects, and simple perennial grass systems may provide little improvement over annual crops.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadh7960
JournalScience advances
Issue number38
StatePublished - 2023

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