Chinese Biofuel Push Could Devastate Remaining Forests' Biodiversity

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Image courtesy of avlxyz via flickr

China's decision to move forward with an ambitious biofuel strategy it unveiled last summer could result in the destruction of its few remaining intact natural forests and - with them - much of its biodiversity. Though the Chinese government recently decided to nix the use of food-based crops, such as soybeans or corn, as part of its biofuel production plan - committing to non-grain crops like cassava, sorghum and jatropha - scientists are concerned about its environmental costs.Speaking at the International Workshop on Biodiversity and Climate Change in Beijing, Spike Millington, chief technical advisor to the EU-China Biodiversity Program, warned that the "region of southwest China targeted for biofuels coincides with the home of the last remaining intact natural forests in China"; Chen Shengliang, a biologist, added that the growth of jatropha trees would likely stifle that of other plant species, decreasing the region's biodiversity.

To mitigate this threat, Millington and others have suggested conducting a range of environmental assessments to discern high biodiversity areas from low biodiversity ones; the latter would be suitable for the planting of jatropha and other biofuel species. Jatropha has already proven to be a qualified success in India, as the FT noted in a recent piece (and as we commented on a few years ago), helping to boost the country's fledgling energy sector; the trees, which can grow on non-arable land and require very little water, could soon account for 30m acres of India's cultivated land. Balancing the benefits of an aggressive biofuel strategy with the biodiversity worries raised by scientists will be crucial for China.

Via ::SciDevNet: Chinese biofuel 'could endanger biodiversity' (news website)

See also: ::China Moves to Ban Food Crops in Ethanol Production, ::More Bad News about Biofuels: Land-Use Concerns Nix Benefits

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