"We Are Already Using A High Proportion of Biomass Production in The Ecosystem"
5 Jul, 2007 11:28 am
Karlheinz Erb is a specialist on sustainable development and biomass flows. His research indicates that humans are already using a very high amount of the Earth's biomass flow, which could become problematic with the new found interest in biofuels.
What we find is that one species on the Earth is appropriating, that is, causing one quarter of biomass collateral flows on Earth. This is a rather huge amount considering it is caused by only one species. Secondly, of course, any energy that human society takes out of the ecosystem will be lacking for other organisms. This is a very high figure, and we discover that geographical pattern is rather diverse. Still, we see with future developments increased biomass demand will have large effects on the functioning of the ecosystem.
Should your study raise concerns given the population growth rate?
Definitely, yes. One implication of it is, of course, with growth population there will be a higher demand of biomass. It is then important to have policies which aim at controlling the population growth. Population growth will have an effect on the ecosystem, and itís very important to act on this issue. Now, how to do? It is probably difficult.
You say that biofuels arenít as good of an idea as some might think...
Biofuels are a very intricate problem. We are trying to go toward policies of biofuels from biomass in order to mitigate carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere. Actually what we see from our study is that we are already using a high proportion of biomass production in the ecosystem. In light of population growth people will need energy from ecosystem for food. If specialized industrialized countries move toward energy for biomass for industrial processes this will first, of course, cause trade offs in food production, but in the end it will shift the climate problem. It will probably help in this instance, but it will shift to other problems where there are United Nations conventions, for example, for the endangerment of biodiversity.
Interview by: Christopher Le Coq
Karlheinz Erb you are a Researcher and Lecturer Institute of Social Ecology at the Klagenfurt University in Vienna.
Reference: National Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences 104: 11121-11122