Argonne National Laboratory

Evaluating the Potential of Marginal Land for Cellulosic Feedstock Production and Carbon Sequestration in the United States

TitleEvaluating the Potential of Marginal Land for Cellulosic Feedstock Production and Carbon Sequestration in the United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsEmery, I, Mueller, S, Qin, Z, Dunn, JB
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Volume51
Start Page733
Issue1
Pagination9
Date Published01/2017
Abstract

and availability for growing feedstocks at scale is a crucial concern for the bioenergy industry. Feedstock production on land not well-suited to growing conventional crops, or marginal land, is often promoted as ideal, although there is a poor understanding of the qualities, quantity, and distribution of marginal lands in the United States. We examine the spatial distribution of land complying with several key marginal land definitions at the United States county, agro-ecological zone, and national scales, and compare the ability of both marginal land and land cover data sets to identify regions for feedstock production. We conclude that very few land parcels comply with multiple definitions of marginal land. Furthermore, to examine possible carbon-flow implications of feedstock production on land that could be considered marginal per multiple definitions, we model soil carbon changes upon transitions from marginal cropland, grassland, and cropland–pastureland to switchgrass production for three marginal land-rich counties. Our findings suggest that total soil organic carbon changes per county are small, and generally positive, and can influence life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of switchgrass ethanol.

DOI10.1021/acs.est.6b04189