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Future Midwest Landscapes-EDT

Environmental Decision Toolkit
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Introduction

The Future Midwestern Landscapes Environmental Decision Tool Kit (FML-EDT) is a study of biofuels and ecosystem services in the Midwestern U.S. with a key outcome to develop a tool to help ensure that biofuels-policy and land-use decisions are made in ways that recognize implications for ecosystem services, and thereby more broadly protect human well-being in the Midwest.

As part of EPA’s core mission “To protect human health and the environment”, the FML-EDT is part of one of several EPA place-based projects which aim to create research results relevant to the stakeholders, issues, and landscapes in an explicit geographic area.

EPA is identifying ecosystem services as the outputs of ecosystem processes that contribute to human well-being. EPA is focusing this research on informing trade-offs among ecosystem services that would provided under alternative management and policy decisions.

Objectives

In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush established aggressive national goals for development of biofuels. The “20-in-10” goal calls for reducing gasoline usage by 20% in the next 10 years. This reduction is to be achieved by “increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 ” (Twenty In Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security).

Federal, state and local policies are already encouraging biofuels production and the results are changing land uses in the US, especially the Midwest which is a center for agricultural activity. Current incentives for biofuels include:

A key objective of the FML-EDT is to develop tools to evaluate alternate pathways of how our country may achieve the "20-in-10" goal. The long term goal of the FML-EDT is to use alternative future landscape scenarios and ecosystem services for the Midwestern US to help achieve the "20-in-10" goal in a sustainable manner. These scenarios would articulate a spatially explicit model of best practices for the environmentally sustainable development of renewable energy resources.

ReVA's FML-EDT goal emphasizes and supports the current goal of the Office of Research and Development's to focus on conducting spatially explicit analyses of potential changes in land uses associated with feedstock production, and the resulting changes in ecosystem services.

Specific objectives necessary to achieve ReVA's FML-EDT overall goal include:

  1. Develop and analyze alternative future scenarios
  2. Engage Stakeholders
  3. Collaborate across organizations
    • Stakeholder involvement in scenario definition
    • Collaborator involvement in scenario definition

Data & Methods

Several alternative future landscapes will be presented that reflect different assumptions about how biofuels will be developed and how lands and watercourses will be managed. Some of these will be at the scale of the entire study region, others at subregional or watershed scales.

Future Scenarios

FML research areas Research on ecosystem services will focus on the left side of the Biofuels Supply Chain; other modeling tools will address implications for the energy sector and air quality (graphic adapted from National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology).
We are currently considering two distinct types of future scenarios, differing in how land-use change is driven.

Type “A” (policy-driven)

Type "A" scenarios are the type most familiar to agricultural economists: models of agricultural supply and demand are used to project changes in prices and plantings over time. are considered relatively realistic; since land uses are assumed to reflect profit maximizing choices of farmers, land use will respond predictably to the conditions of the scenario.

Type “B” (landscape design-driven)

Typ "B" scenarios are more familiar to modelers in ORD: land uses, environmental practices or other management assumptions are directly changed by the modeler to explore best or worst cases. assume hypothetical land use changes that land owners have no actual incentive to make. However, they allow scientists to construct landscapes that reflect an environmental objective and to test the benefits or harms that would be derived.

ReVA is currently evaluating the following Ecosystems Services to be quantified and valued (see figure):

  1. Water Provisioning
  2. Flow Regulation
  3. Water Quality Regulation
  4. Downstream Aquatic Ecosystem Services

ReVA will also investigate how landscape analysis methods developed for the FML-EDT might be implementated as part of I-FARM (http://www.i-farmtools.org/i-farm/ Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer), a popular, on-line “integrated crop and livestock production and biomass planning tool” that is operated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and Purdue University's L-THIA/EQIP (http://www.ecn.purdue.edu/runoff/lthia/lthia_index.htm Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer)

Partners

Partner Role
U.S. EPA Region 7 Stakeholder involvement for scenario building
USDA-ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) Feedstock production technology characteristics
EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality Information on biofuel conversion technologies
DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory Information on biofuel conversion technologies
USDA - CSREES/NRCS Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP)
Information on ecosystem services of conservation practices and restored agricultural ecosystems
Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University

Agricultural scenario simulations using FAPRI

Mapping of actual or simulated land uses

Field or watershed-level modeling of agricultural practices and water quality

ESD (ORD/NERL)

MODIS NDVI classification of land cover for changes in crop lands and wetlands

Mapping of projected land use changes

Spatial analysis of ecosystem services

Development and pilot testing of web-based environmental decision toolkit

APPCD (ORD/NRMRL) MARKAL energy sector simulations
EERD ORD/NERL)

Fine-scale mapping of wetlands

N15 transport and behavior in foodwebs as affected by BMPs

Ecosystem services of restored wetlands

Kansas State University Data on feedstock production practices including:long term soil productivity, carbon balance, water balance
GWERD (ORD/NRMRL)

Long term soil productivity

Regional hydrologic modeling for groundwater

NHEERL (ORD Food insecurity
USDA-ERS Food insecurity
AMD (ORD/NERL) Air quality modeling and benefits mapping using CMAQ
LRPCD (ORD/NRMRL) Ecosystem services of restored wetlands
Midwest Spatial Decision Support System Partnership
Development and pilot testing of web-based environmental decision toolkit
U.S. EPA Regions 5, 7, 8
Client involvement for design of web-based environmental decision toolkit
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University Implementation of ecosystem services computational tools as part of I FARM system
   

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