skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: A thermodynamic approach for assessing agroecosystem sustainability

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1349125
Grant/Contract Number:
AC02-05CH11231; DEB-0823341; FG03-00ER62996; FG02-03ER63639; EE0003149; FG02-00ER45827
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Publisher's Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecological Indicators
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 67; Journal Issue: C; Related Information: CHORUS Timestamp: 2017-10-04 16:34:29; Journal ID: ISSN 1470-160X
Publisher:
Elsevier
Country of Publication:
Netherlands
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Cochran, Ferdouz V., Brunsell, Nathaniel A., and Suyker, Andrew E.. A thermodynamic approach for assessing agroecosystem sustainability. Netherlands: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.01.045.
Cochran, Ferdouz V., Brunsell, Nathaniel A., & Suyker, Andrew E.. A thermodynamic approach for assessing agroecosystem sustainability. Netherlands. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.01.045.
Cochran, Ferdouz V., Brunsell, Nathaniel A., and Suyker, Andrew E.. Mon . "A thermodynamic approach for assessing agroecosystem sustainability". Netherlands. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.01.045.
@article{osti_1349125,
title = {A thermodynamic approach for assessing agroecosystem sustainability},
author = {Cochran, Ferdouz V. and Brunsell, Nathaniel A. and Suyker, Andrew E.},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.01.045},
journal = {Ecological Indicators},
number = C,
volume = 67,
place = {Netherlands},
year = {Mon Aug 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016},
month = {Mon Aug 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record at 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.01.045

Save / Share:
  • Indicators are needed to assess both socioeconomic and environmental sustainability of bioenergy systems. Effective indicators can help to identify and quantify the sustainability attributes of bioenergy options. We identify 16 socioeconomic indicators that fall into the categories of social well-being, energy security, trade, profitability, resource conservation, and social acceptability. The suite of indicators is predicated on the existence of basic institutional frameworks to provide governance, legal, regulatory and enforcement services. Indicators were selected to be practical, sensitive to stresses, unambiguous, anticipatory, predictive, calibrated with known variability, and sufficient when considered collectively. The utility of each indicator, methods for its measurement,more » and applications appropriate for the context of particular bioenergy systems are described along with future research needs. Together, this suite of indicators is hypothesized to reflect major socioeconomic effects of the full supply chain for bioenergy, including feedstock production and logistics, conversion to biofuels, biofuel logistics and biofuel end uses. Ten of those 16 indicators are proposed to be the minimum list of practical measures of socioeconomic aspects of bioenergy sustainability. Coupled with locally-prioritized environmental indicators, we propose that these socioeconomic indicators can provide a basis to quantify and evaluate sustainability of bioenergy systems across many regions in which they will be deployed.« less
  • The increasing prominence of Sustainable Development as a policy objective has initiated a debate on appropriate frameworks and tools that will both provide guidance for a shift towards sustainability as well as a measure, preferably quantitative, of that shift. Sustainability assessment has thus the challenging task of capturing, addressing and suggesting solutions for a diverse set of issues that affect stakeholders with different values and span over different spatial and temporal scales. However sustainability assessment is still not a mature framework in the sense that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) are. This paper aims to providemore » suggestions for improving the sustainability evaluation part of a sustainability assessment. In particular it will provide a comprehensive review of different sustainability evaluation tools (from a reductionist perspective) as well as the feasibility of incorporating them within a sustainability assessment framework. Reviewed tools include monetary tools, biophysical models and sustainability indicators/composite indices that have been developed within different disciplines such as economics, statistics, ecology, engineering and town planning.« less
  • This paper connects the science of sustainability theory with applied aspects of sustainability deployment. A suite of 35 sustainability indicators spanning six environmental, three economic, and three social categories has been proposed for comparing the sustainability of bioenergy production systems across different feedstock types and locations. A recent demonstration-scale switchgrass-to-ethanol production system located in East Tennessee is used to assess the availability of sustainability indicator data and associated measurements for the feedstock production and logistics portions of the biofuel supply chain. Knowledge pertaining to the available indicators is distributed within a hierarchical decision tree framework to generate an assessment ofmore » the overall sustainability of this no-till switchgrass production system relative to two alternative business-as-usual scenarios of unmanaged pasture and tilled corn production. The relative contributions of the social, economic and environmental information are determined for the overall trajectory of this bioenergy system s sustainability under each scenario. Within this East Tennessee context, switchgrass production shows potential for improving environmental and social sustainability trajectories without adverse economic impacts, thereby leading to potential for overall enhancement in sustainability within this local agricultural system. Given the early stages of cellulosic ethanol production, it is currently difficult to determine quantitative values for all 35 sustainability indicators across the entire biofuel supply chain. This case study demonstrates that integration of qualitative sustainability indicator ratings may increase holistic understanding of a bioenergy system in the absence of complete information.« less
  • There is a strong societal need to evaluate and understand the sustainability of biofuels, especially because of the significant increases in production mandated by many countries, including the United States. Sustainability will be a strong factor in the regulatory environment and investments in biofuels. Biomass feedstock production is an important contributor to environmental, social, and economic impacts from biofuels. This study presents a systems approach where the agricultural, energy, and environmental sectors are considered as components of a single system, and environmental liabilities are used as recoverable resources for biomass feedstock production. We focus on efficient use of land andmore » water resources. We conducted a spatial analysis evaluating marginal land and degraded water resources to improve feedstock productivity with concomitant environmental restoration for the state of Nebraska. Results indicate that utilizing marginal land resources such as riparian and roadway buffer strips, brownfield sites, and marginal agricultural land could produce enough feedstocks to meet a maximum of 22% of the energy requirements of the state compared to the current supply of 2%. Degraded water resources such as nitrate-contaminated groundwater and wastewater were evaluated as sources of nutrients and water to improve feedstock productivity. Spatial overlap between degraded water and marginal land resources was found to be as high as 96% and could maintain sustainable feedstock production on marginal lands. Other benefits of implementing this strategy include feedstock intensification to decrease biomass transportation costs, restoration of contaminated water resources, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.« less