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Selecting indicators of changes in ecosystem services due to cellulosic-based 1 biofuel in the midwestern US

Abstract: Cellulosic-based biofuels are needed to help meet energy needs and to strengthen rural investment and development in the midwestern United States (US). This analysis identifies 11 categories of indicators to measure progress toward sustainability that should be monitored to determine if ecosystem and social services are being maintained, enhanced, or disrupted by production, harvest, storage, and transport of cellulosic feedstock. The indicator categories are identified using scientific literature, input from two stakeholder meetings, and response information from targeted surveys. Five of the categories focus on environmental concerns (soil quality, water quality and quantity, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and productivity), and six focus on socioeconomic categories (social well-being, energy security, external trade, profitability, resource conservation, and social acceptability). We hypothesize that by measuring these indicators, it will be feasible to quantify changes in ecosystem and social services related to provisioning (e.g., energy, nutrition and materials), cultural, regulating, and supporting services such as optimum soil water and nutrient balances, remediation of wastes, toxins, or other nuisance compounds, and continuation of physical, biological and chemical conditions. To advance our hypothesis from conceptual to real-world sustainability assessments, the next step will be to work with a team of stakeholders and researchers to implement a Landscape Design Project entitled “Enabling Sustainable Landscape Design for Continual Improvement of Operating Bioenergy Supply Systems.” The desired outcome is to identify a science-based approach so that progress toward sustainability can be assessed and useful management practices can be identified.

Virginia H. Dale , Keith L. Kline , Tom L. Richard , Doug L. Karlen
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Virginia H. Dale
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Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Bioenergy Category
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Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.