Global change synergies and trade-offs between renewable energy and biodiversity

Andrea Santangeli, Tuuli Toivonen, Federico Montesino Pouzols, Mark Pogson, Astley Hastings, Peter Smith, Atte Mo Ilanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Reliance on fossil fuels is causing unprecedented climate change and is accelerating environmental degradation and global biodiversity loss. Together, climate change and biodiversity loss, if not averted urgently, may inflict severe damage on ecosystem processes, functions and services that support the welfare of modern societies. Increasing renewable energy deployment and expanding the current protected area network represent key solutions to these challenges, but conflicts may arise over the use of limited land for energy production as opposed to biodiversity conservation. Here, we compare recently identified core areas for the expansion of the global protected area network with the renewable energy potential available from land-based solar photovoltaic, wind energy and bioenergy (in the form of Miscanthus × giganteus). We show that these energy sources have very different biodiversity impacts and net energy contributions. The extent of risks and opportunities deriving from renewable energy development is highly dependent on the type of renewable source harvested, the restrictions imposed on energy harvest and the region considered, with Central America appearing at particularly high potential risk from renewable energy expansion. Without restrictions on power generation due to factors such as production and transport costs, we show that bioenergy production is a major potential threat to biodiversity, while the potential impact of wind and solar appears smaller than that of bioenergy. However, these differences become reduced when energy potential is restricted by external factors including local energy demand. Overall, we found that areas of opportunity for developing solar and wind energy with little harm to biodiversity could exist in several regions of the world, with the magnitude of potential impact being particularly dependent on restrictions imposed by local energy demand. The evidence provided here helps guide sustainable development of renewable energy and contributes to the targeting of global efforts in climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-951
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Change Biology. Bioenergy
Volume8
Issue number5
Early online date26 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

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global trade
Biodiversity
renewable energy sources
global change
biodiversity
energy
bioenergy
wind power
solar energy
Potential energy
Climate change
Wind power
potential energy
Conservation
conservation areas
protected area
climate change
Miscanthus giganteus
power generation
environmental degradation

Keywords

  • bioenergy
  • conservation planning
  • environmental impact avoidance
  • offsetting
  • spatial conservation prioritization
  • species richness
  • trade-off

Cite this

Global change synergies and trade-offs between renewable energy and biodiversity. / Santangeli, Andrea; Toivonen, Tuuli; Pouzols, Federico Montesino; Pogson, Mark; Hastings, Astley; Smith, Peter; Ilanen, Atte Mo.

In: Global Change Biology. Bioenergy, Vol. 8, No. 5, 09.2016, p. 941-951.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Santangeli, Andrea ; Toivonen, Tuuli ; Pouzols, Federico Montesino ; Pogson, Mark ; Hastings, Astley ; Smith, Peter ; Ilanen, Atte Mo. / Global change synergies and trade-offs between renewable energy and biodiversity. In: Global Change Biology. Bioenergy. 2016 ; Vol. 8, No. 5. pp. 941-951.
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abstract = "Reliance on fossil fuels is causing unprecedented climate change and is accelerating environmental degradation and global biodiversity loss. Together, climate change and biodiversity loss, if not averted urgently, may inflict severe damage on ecosystem processes, functions and services that support the welfare of modern societies. Increasing renewable energy deployment and expanding the current protected area network represent key solutions to these challenges, but conflicts may arise over the use of limited land for energy production as opposed to biodiversity conservation. Here, we compare recently identified core areas for the expansion of the global protected area network with the renewable energy potential available from land-based solar photovoltaic, wind energy and bioenergy (in the form of Miscanthus × giganteus). We show that these energy sources have very different biodiversity impacts and net energy contributions. The extent of risks and opportunities deriving from renewable energy development is highly dependent on the type of renewable source harvested, the restrictions imposed on energy harvest and the region considered, with Central America appearing at particularly high potential risk from renewable energy expansion. Without restrictions on power generation due to factors such as production and transport costs, we show that bioenergy production is a major potential threat to biodiversity, while the potential impact of wind and solar appears smaller than that of bioenergy. However, these differences become reduced when energy potential is restricted by external factors including local energy demand. Overall, we found that areas of opportunity for developing solar and wind energy with little harm to biodiversity could exist in several regions of the world, with the magnitude of potential impact being particularly dependent on restrictions imposed by local energy demand. The evidence provided here helps guide sustainable development of renewable energy and contributes to the targeting of global efforts in climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation.",
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