Landscape ecology focuses on the spatial patterns and processes of ecological and human interactions. These patterns and processes are being altered by both changing resource-management practices of humans and changing climate conditions associated, in part, with increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Dominant resource-extraction and land-management activities involve energy, and the use of fossil energy is one of the key drivers behind increasing greenhouse gas emissions as well as land-use changes. Alternative energy sources (such as wind, solar, nuclear, and bioenergy) are being explored to reduce greenhouse gas emission rates. Yet, energy production, including alternative-energy options, can have a wide range of effects on land productivity, surface cover, albedo, and other factors that affect carbon, water, and energy fluxes and, in turn, climate. Meanwhile, climate influences the potential output, relative efficiencies, and sustainability of alternative energy sources. Thus, land use, climate change, and energy choices are linked, and any comprehensive analysis in landscape ecology that considers one of these factors should be cognizant of these interactions. This analysis explores the implications of linkages between land use, climate change, and energy and points out ecological patterns and processes that may be affected by their interaction.
Potential global biodiversity impacts from near-term gasoline production are compared to biofuel, a renewable liquid transportation fuel expected to substitute for gasoline in the near term (i.e., from now until c. 2030). Petroleum exploration activities are projected to extend across more than 5.8 billion ha of land and ocean worldwide (of which 3.1 bllion is on land), much of which is in remote, fragile terrestrial ecosystems or off-shore oil fields that would remain relatively undisturbed if not for interest in fossil fuel production. Future biomass production for biofuels is projected to fall within 2.0 billion ha of land, most of which is located in areas already impacted by human activities. A comparison of likely fuel-source areas to the geospatial distribution of species reveals that both energy sources overlap with areas with high species richness and large numbers of threatened species. At the global scale, future petroleum production areas intersect more than double the area and a higher total number of threatened species than future biofuel production. Energy options should be developed to optimize provisioning of ecosystems services while minimizing negative effects, which requires information about potential impacts on critical resources. Energy conservation and identifying and effectively protecting habitats with high-concervation value are critical first steps toward protecting biodiversity under any fuel production scenario.