Research for the Environment

Land use conflicts related to the production of bioenergy

Development of migration strategies

The use of bioenergy crops is rapidly growing in the EU and Germany in order to satisfy the need of sustainable energy sources. Currently more than 13% of the European agricultural land is already used for bioenergy crops and landscape composition continues to change rapidly. The last decade the focus was mainly on crops that can be grown for direct oil extraction (oilseed rape) or ethanol production by fermentation (cereals and maize). Recent progress in ethanol production by enzymatic processing of plant biomass additionally makes trees, grasses and agricultural waste suitable for producing sustainable energy. Both types of biofuel crops (called first and second generation crops) are often increasing landscape homogeneity and affect animals and plants in agricultural regions. We investigate on one hand land-use conflicts by simulating crop field changes and on the other hand the potential of semi-natural habitats such as grasslands and forest for use as second generation biofuels.

The department works with two models that analyze land-use conflicts:

  • We use a spatially explicit model to quantify farmland bird abundance under different land-use scenarios. We ask under which conditions enhanced use of bioenergy crops is harmful to different bird species and which mitigation strategies we can use to optimize the agricultural field mosaic (composition and configuration).
  • With another model we deal with decisions of land-users. We focus on the effect of various market and policy conditions on land-use patterns. We analyze the economic and ecologic characteristics of these land-use patterns and the performance of bioenergy related policy instruments (those designed to weaken unwanted side effects).

The department also aims to quantify the carbon storage under climate-change and biomass-production driven land-use changes. We investigate spatio-temporal allocation patterns for woody and herbaceous cropping systems separately:

  • We use the well-established individual-based forest model FORMIND to analyze the effect of different climate scenarios on biomass production of temperate forests with different functional tree diversity. Forest growth is simulated by coupling a soil and a climate module (temperature, precipitation, light).
  • We use the individual-based grassland model GRASMIND (based on FORMIND modules) to analyze the carbon storage potential of extensively managed grasslands (high plant diversity) as an alternative for intensively managed energy crops (low diversity monocultures) for bioenergy production in Central Europe. We investigate different scenarios of species richness and diversity and the effect of functional plant traits. We also ask whether drought events change their potential contribution to bioenergy production.

Selected Publications

  • Engel, J., Huth, A., Frank, K. (submitted):
    Bioenergy production and Skylark (Alauda arvensis) population abundance - a modelling approach for the analysis of land-use change impacts and conservation options
  • Taubert, F., Frank, K., Huth, A. (submitted):
    Modelling grasslands for bioenergy production: from a review to a new approach



UFZ Energy Days 2015

The UFZ Energy Days 2015 provide a platform to present and discuss recent progress in renewable energies research.

24-25 February 2015, Leipzig

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International Summer School

„How to model human decision making in social-ecological agent-based models”

5-10 July 2015, Kohren-Sahlis (near Leipzig)

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