Wildlife Responses to Changing Environments

Wildlife responses to bioenergy crops in east-central Illinois

Miscanthus Fields picture
Giant Miscanthus prior to
late winter harvest
east-central Illinois
Miscanthus Fields picture
Giant Miscanthus following
late winter harvest
east-central Illinois

With the passing of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the United States has dedicated itself to producing renewable energy in the hopes of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. While interest in biofuels has increased across the country, there is a large potential for growing biomass dedicated to fuel production in the Midwest due to the region's climate and established agricultural infrastructure. In response to this growing need, many farmers have planted corn dedicated to bioethanol production. Pursuing corn as a sole solution to the energy crisis, however, is not a sustainable option, leading some farmers to explore alternatives, like perennial grasses. One crop currently being explored by some regional farmers is Miscanthus x giganteous (also known as Giant miscanthus), a fast-growing, sterile perennial grass hybrid native to Asia. Resource managers have expressed concerns about the invasive potential of this crop and its detrimental effects on wildlife diversity; however, data on the impacts of Giant Miscanthus on wildlife are scarce, particularly in the United States.Our lab is working on local farms in east-central Illinois to investigate the effects of this dedicated bioenergy crop as well as native grasses (e.g., switchgrass, big bluestem) on local wildlife, particularly small terrestrial mammals and breeding songbirds.

Peromyscus caught picture
Peromyscus caught
in Giant Miscanthus field



What we're working on:

  • Comparison of small terrestrial mammal abundances and reproductive rates among native and non-native bioenergy grasses, traditional agricultural crops and conservation reserve program grasslands
  • Impacts of Miscanthus x giganteuson Midwestern farmland songbirds at the field and landscape scale