facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

U.S. grasslands losing to biofuel crops

Feb. 20, 2013 at 5:02 PM   |   Comments

BROOKINGS, S.D., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The rush to increase planting of biofuel feedstock is rapidly killing off unique grasslands and pastures in the central United States, researchers report.

Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University -- analyzing satellite images of five states in the U.S. corn belt -- determined 1.3 million acres of grassland had been replaced by corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, NewScientist.com reported.

Demand for both crops has risen with incentives to use them as biofuel resources instead of food, the researchers said.

The loss of native grasslands and pastures was greatest in South Dakota and Iowa, they said, with as much as 5 per cent of pasture being converted to cropland each year. This is having an impact on wildlife, the researchers report, especially on ground-nesting birds that use grasslands and their surrounding wetlands as breeding grounds.

One area of wetlands in South Dakota known as the Prairie Pothole Region is especially at risk from encroaching crop fields, they said.

"Half of North American ducks breed here," Wright said.

Other environmentalists agreed the loss of grasslands was worrisome.

"Exchanging real environmental impacts for the dubious benefits of biofuels is counterproductive," Bill Henwood of the Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia, said. "Last year's record drought in the corn belt all but wiped out the crops anyway."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Harvard scientist startled by giant bird-eating spider on rainforest walk Harvard scientist startled by giant bird-eating spider on rainforest walk
2
Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves
3
Peaking Orionid meteor shower to be obscured by nor'easter Peaking Orionid meteor shower to be obscured by nor'easter
4
Three Mars probes hide behind planet, avoid comet debris Three Mars probes hide behind planet, avoid comet debris
5
Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback