Density of Biogas Power Plants as An Indicator of Bioenergy Generated Transformation of Agricultural Landscapes

The increasing use of biogas, produced from energy crops like silage maize, is supposed to noticeably change the structures and patterns of agricultural landscapes in Europe. The main objective of our study is to quantify this assumed impact of intensive biogas production with the example of an agrarian landscape in Northern Germany. Therefore, we used three different datasets; Corine Land Cover (CLC), local agricultural statistics (Agrar-Struktur-Erhebung, ASE), and data on biogas power plants. Via kernel density analysis, we delineated impact zones which represent different levels of bioenergy-generated transformations of agrarian landscapes. We cross-checked the results by the analyses of the land cover and landscape pattern changes from 2000 to 2012 inside the impact zones. We found significant correlations between the installed electrical capacity (IC) and land cover changes. According to our findings, the landscape pattern of cropland—expressed via landscape metrics (mean patch size (MPS), total edge (TE), mean shape index (MSI), mean fractal dimension index (MFRACT)—increased and that of pastures decreased since the beginning of biogas production. Moreover, our study indicates that the increasing number of biogas power plants in certain areas is accompanied with a continuous reduction in crop diversity and a homogenization of land use in the same areas. We found maximum degrees of land use homogenisation in areas with highest IC. Our results show that a Kernel density map of the IC of biogas power plants might offer a suitable first indicator for monitoring and quantifying landscape change induced by biogas production.


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