Bioethanol production exacerbates deforestation and water scarcity

To reduce emissions from petrol, bioethanol has emerged as a type of biofuel that is blended with petrol or used as a substitute fuel. To meet the growing demand for bioethanol, more and more land is needed to grow crops, which can lead to deforestation and the associated loss of biodiversity. It also requires large amounts of water, which can lead to water scarcity, and causes high levels of acidification and eutrophication, mainly due to the use of fertilisers.

Nº 66

Cerrado and Atlantic forests

some attempts made
past case
Region-1
Region-2
Region-3
Region-4
ongoing case
no attempts made

Bioethanol production exacerbates deforestation and water scarcity

To reduce emissions from petrol, bioethanol has emerged as a type of biofuel that is blended with petrol or used as a substitute fuel. To meet the growing demand for bioethanol, more and more land is needed to grow crops, which can lead to deforestation and the associated loss of biodiversity. It also requires large amounts of water, which can lead to water scarcity, and causes high levels of acidification and eutrophication, mainly due to the use of fertilisers.

Land-use changes resulting from sugarcane expansion are widespread in the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest biomes of Brazil. Both areas are highly threatened biodiversity hotspots. While the biodiversity impacts of increased ethanol production are considered to be lower than those of other drivers of land-use change, increased ethanol production leads to direct and indirect land-use changes that have a significant negative impact on species richness in the study areas. In particular, the loss of forest and shrubland is associated with high losses in potential species richness.

Duden, A. S., Verweij, P. A., Faaij, A. P. C., Baisero, D., Rondinini, C., & van der Hilst, F. (2020). Biodiversity Impacts of Increased Ethanol Production in Brazil. Land, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/land9010012

Jeswani, H. K., Chilvers, A., & Azapagic, A. (2020). Environmental sustainability of biofuels: a review. Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 476(2243), 20200351. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2020.0351