Landscape Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 10, pp 1987–1999 | Cite as

Spatial land use trade-offs for maintenance of biodiversity, biofuel, and agriculture

  • Kathrine D. Behrman
  • Thomas E. Juenger
  • James R. Kiniry
  • Timothy H. Keitt
Research Article



Expansion of bioenergy production is part of a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. Dedicated biomass crops will compete with other land uses as most high quality arable land is already used for agriculture, urban development, and biodiversity conservation.


First, we explore the trade-offs between converting land enrolled in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to switchgrass for biofuel production or preserving it for biodiversity. Next, we examine the trade-offs between agriculture, biodiversity, and biofuel across the central and eastern U.S.


We compiled measures of biodiversity, agriculture, and biofuel from land cover classifications, species range maps, and mechanistic model output of switchgrass yield. We used a spatially-explicit optimization algorithm to analyze the impacts of small-to-large scale biomass production by identifying locations that maximize biofuel produced from switchgrass and minimize negative impacts on biodiversity and agriculture.


Using CRP land for switchgrass production increases the land area required to meet biomass goals and the species range area altered for birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles. When conversion is not limited to CRP, conversion scenarios including biodiversity and agriculture trade-offs require greater than 100 % more area for switchgrass to reach the same production goals. When land conversion scenarios do not include biodiversity, twice the range area for reptiles and amphibians could be altered.


Land-use trade-offs between biofuel production, agriculture, and biodiversity exist and alter optimum location of land conversion for low-to-high biofuel levels. This highlights the need for systematic land-use planning for the future.


Species richness Ecosystem services Switchgrass Spatial optimization ALMANAC model Panicum virgatum L. 



We thank Daren Harmel, Mari-Vaughn Johnson, Norman Meki, and Wayne Polley for helpful comments. Funding for this works was provided by The National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program award number NSF IOS-0922457. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Supplementary material

10980_2015_225_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1870 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathrine D. Behrman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas E. Juenger
    • 2
  • James R. Kiniry
    • 1
  • Timothy H. Keitt
    • 2
  1. 1.Grassland, Soil and Water Research LaboratoryUSDA-ARSTempleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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