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A Bird's Eye View of Biofuels

Migratory Birds and Biofuel Production Compete for Fertile Areas 

Growing demand for ecologically friendly fuel has dramatically increased bio-fuel production. Yet in regions of water scarcity such as Africa, many bio-fuel farms are built on biologically rich areas with abundant water and nutrients. Migrating birds depend on these “oases” amongst vast regions of land not productive enough to support them.

Increasing land use for biofuel production results in the conversion of woodlands, wetlands and grasslands into large monoculture farms. Wetlands must first be filled in, woodlands cleared and grasslands ploughed under before biofuels can be planted. These farms usually only plant one type of crop replacing the once biologically rich habitat with a single plant species.


Plants grown for biofuel such as palms, sugar cane and soy, need fertile soil and water; two scarce resources migratory birds and many other species depend on. Biofuels are grown directly on areas such as wetlands or large amounts of water are diverted from wetlands and rivers to irrigate cropland.

Wetlands are susceptible to pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers because they pollute water and kill many plants and animals that make the foundation of food webs. Pesticides are designed to kill insects that eat crops but they also are toxic to many other animals. Herbicides meant to control weeds kill grasses and other plants that make complex habitats that can support many species. Fertilizers cause algae to grow extremely quickly depleting water sources of oxygen and choking out other plant and animal inhabitants.

Living on the Edge of Survival

Birds Migrate Over Huge Expanses Seeking Relatively Small Areas

Many species of migrating birds live on the edge of survival, and damage or loss of habitats due to the planting of biofuels can be fatal. Despite the vastness of the continents migratory birds fly across, often they use and feed in only specific habitats within larger ranges; these are the crucial habitats many migratory birds look for while migrating.

For example, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird flies an exhausting 900 km nonstop from its wintering ground in Central America to its specific breeding ground in the United States. However, biofuel production has played a prominent role in damaging these areas.

Conservationists fear that migrating birds living on the edge of survival cannot endure the loss of these crucial habitats. This, however, also makes them extremely vulnerable to changes of land use.




Interactive Migratory Bird Range Maps

See what migratory birds in your area use critical habitats threatened by land use such as Biofuel production using theWings Over Wetlands (WOW) Critical Site Networking Tool or see these examples: Curlew Sandpiper, Black-winged PratincoleWhite stork



A Bird's Eye View of Biofuels

See "A Bird's Eye View" of migartory bird habitat biofuel threatened by Biofuel production on the WMBD Event Google Map: Niger Flood Plains of the SahelTana Wetlands in Kenya





Register a WMBD Event

Register a WMBD event to raise awareness about the effects of biofuel production on migratory birds in your area and receive WMBD posters and stickers to support your event.