Environmental impact assessment of biofuel productionΒΆ

Biofuels are considered as one of the most promising sources of energy with relatively low impact on the environment. To evaluate the sustainability of biofuel production, it is required to assess the environmental impact of biofuel crops. Environmental impact may include changes in hydrology (e.g. increased drought or flooding), ecology (reduced biodiversity), soils (increased land degradation), or climate (changes in carbon balance). This can be done using a modelling approach. Land use change models can be used to forecast areas where biofuels are most likely to expand, while process-based models of hydrology, land degradation, or related processes, can be used to quantify the expected impact on the environment of this biofuel expansion.

In this study you can select the focus area yourself, depending on your background. The research group has developed a number of land use change models that can be used, and you will have access to a set of process-based models to calculate impact (e.g. hydrological models, land degradation models). You can focus on areas studied by our research group; these include Mozambique, Brazil, and Ukraine.

This topic is interesting if you like multi disciplinary research, as you need to integrate knowledge from earth science, social science and energy science. If you like a somewhat more applied approach to topics studied in hydrology or natural hazards, this topic could be interesting as well.

Location: Utrecht University, possibility to visit a research area

Number of students: 1-4

Prerequisites: preferably courses in spatio-temporal modelling, hydrology, geomorphology, and/or natural hazards

Program/track: Earth Surface Hydrology or Natural Hazards and Earth Observation

Contact/info and supervision: Derek Karssenberg (d.karssenberg@uu.nl), Judith Verstegen (j.a.verstegen@uu.nl, PhD student)

Cooperation with: other staff members of earth sciences (e.g. researchers working in natural hazards, hydrology), and staff members of the energy science group in our faculty