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Thursday, October 18

Bioenergy Expansion: A Wildlife Perspective

Robert Fletcher, University of Florida, Gainesville
Center for Bioenergy Sustainability Seminar
3:30 PM — 5:00 PM, Building 1505, Room 189
Contact: Jennifer Smith (smithjf@ornl.gov), 865.574.8452

Abstract

Growing demand for alternative energy has contributed to increased biofuel production, but wildlife consequences of land-use change to biofuel crops remain unclear. I outline the current state of knowledge regarding bioenergy expansion and its potential effects on wildlife. Nearly all of the potential impacts on wildlife come from the use of meta-analyses. These analyses suggest that both land management and land-use change can have considerable effects on within-field abundance and diversity of wildlife. Yet there are many limitations of these meta-analyses, such that forecasting the effect of bioenergy expansion remains a challenge. At large scales, bioenergy expansion will influence wildlife through the amount and configuration of land-use change that results to meet federal mandates. Our understanding of large scale effects is still very limited, however, primarily due to scarce data that are relevant predicting such effects. While many information gaps remain, some robust conclusions are highlighted. I end by discussing critical next steps for integrating wildlife and related biodiversity information into the bioenergy debate.

About the speaker:
Dr. Robert (Rob) Fletcher is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Ecology in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Colorado and his Ph.D. from Iowa State University. Before moving to the University of Florida, he was a postdoctoral associate and research professor at the University of Montana. He has extensive experience with quantitative conservation biology, with a focus on how animals are influenced by environmental change, such as changes in land-use, climate, and novel human activities. Recently, he led a project aimed at understanding the current state-of-knowledge for interpreting an expansion in biofuels production on biodiversity and related ecosystem impacts. In 2011, he was served as an external reviewer for the EPA’s Draft Conceptual Models of Biofuel Feedstock Production, and helped lead a follow-up workshop hosted by the EPA on improving the sustainability of biofuels production. He is currently extending this work using spatially explicit algorithms for interpreting environmental tradeoffs of reaching biofuels production goals for the Southeast. In addition, he is currently initiating work to quantify species responses from several taxa to three major pathways for extracting biomass from pine forests in the Southeast, which will fill critical information gaps for promoting sustainable bioenergy production. Dr. Fletcher currently advises 9 Ph.D. students and 2 M.S. students on a range of projects relevant to landscape ecology and conservation. Rob grew up in Knoxville, TN, and is excited to visit Oak Ridge.