As biofuels continue to gain traction across the country, a new study looks into how biofuels are impacting bird and endangered species populations.

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The study looks into the impact converting land to grow corn for biofuel production will have on protected wildlife.

Aerial drone view of cultivated green corn field

Researcher Tyler Lark, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, authored the report. He says that expanding corn production in states such as Iowa will have environmental consequences.

“When you plow up a grassland to plant additional corn or switch from some other crops to something that’s more intensive, like corn production,” Lark says in a Radio Iowa report, “that generally results in greater nutrient pollution to waterways.”

This isn’t Lark’s first study that looked at the environmental impacts relating to ethanol. In February 2022, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said ethanol is "likely a much bigger contributor to global warming than straight gasoline."

The article continues by saying the research “found that ethanol is likely at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline due to emissions resulting from land-use changes to grow corn, along with processing and combustion."

via Canva
via Canva

Lark’s recent report looks at whooping cranes, Poweshiek skipperling butterflies, and black-footed ferrets. He says that these endangered species would be affected if grassland is converted for corn production.

“Identifying the issue is the first step and that’s what this work really aims to do, but we can’t stop there,” Lark says. “There are simple solutions available right now that can reduce or even reverse the impacts of bioenergy policy on threatened and endangered species.”

He adds that expanding cover crops on these corn acres can help animals use the land as a habitat.

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