Energy and Wildlife


Homegrown Energy: Deserts Blooming with Biofuels?

USGS scientist Sasha Reed and other USGS researchers are actively evaluating the potential for and consequences of biofuel production in the Southwest. These scientists are conducting research to find answers to questions such as, what happens when biofuels are incorporated in different soil types and landscapes of the Southwest? And what effects will biofuel production have on ecosystems, dust production, or water quality and quantity?

Potential for Agave Biofuel Production

USGS is collaborating with the USDA Aridland Agricultural Research Center and the University of Ohio regarding the potential for Agave biofuel production to add to our national bioenergy portfolio in marginal lands. Agave may represent a highly efficient biofuel, even under non-irrigation conditions, but the ecosystem consequences of this development on drylands (including habitat and wildlife) remains unknown. The project aims to explore the potential benefits and disadvantages of this alternative energy strategy.

Lead Scientists

Sasha Reed
Southwest Biological Science Center
p: (435) 210-4824

Recent Publications

Using satellite vegetation and compound topographic indices to map highly erodible cropland buffers for cellulosic biofuel crop developments in eastern Nebraska, USA

Cultivating annual row crops in high topographic relief waterway buffers has negative environmental effects and can be environmentally unsustainable. Growing perennial grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) for biomass (e.g., cellulosic biofuel feedstocks) instead of annual row crops in these high relief waterway buffers can improve local environmental conditions...

Breeding bird community response to establishing intercropped switchgrass in intensively-managed pine stands

Intercropping switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) between tree rows within young pine (Pinus spp.) plantations is a potential method to generate lignocellulosic biofuel feedstocks within intensively managed forests. Intensively managed pine supports a diverse avian assemblage potentially affected by establishment and maintenance of an annual biomass feedstock via changes in plant communities, dead wood resources, and habitat structure.

Predicted avian responses to bioenergy development scenarios in an intensive agricultural landscape

Conversion of native prairie to agriculture has increased food and bioenergy production but decreased wildlife habitat. However, enrollment of highly erodible cropland in conservation programs has compensated for some grassland loss. In the future, climate change and production of second-generation perennial biofuel crops could further transform agricultural landscapes and increase or decrease grassland area.

Agricultural conversion without external water and nutrient inputs reduces terrestrial vegetation productivity

Driven by global population and standard of living increases, humanity co-opts a growing share of the planet's natural resources resulting in many well-known environmental trade-offs. In this study, we explored the impact of agriculture on a resource fundamental to life on Earth: terrestrial vegetation growth.

Bioenergy potential of the United States constrained by satellite observations and existing productivity

United States (U.S.) energy policy includes an expectation that bioenergy will be a substantial future energy source. In particular, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) aims to increase annual U.S. biofuel (secondary bioenergy) production by more than 3-fold, from 40 to 136 billion liters ethanol...


Top Photo: Monarch butterfly on Switchgrass in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Jim Hudgins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.