Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Cuizhen Wang


Agricultural land-use change, especially corn expansion, has been accelerating since the 2000s to meet the growing bioenergy demand in the United States. This study identifies the environmentally sensitive lands (ESLs) in the U.S. Midwest and explores the environmental implications of land-use changes in this vital agricultural region. A new distance factor is introduced to a soil erodibility model to take wetlands and waterbodies into account. With a GIS-Ranking Model, the ESLs in 2008 and 2011 (two representative years of corn expansion) in the study region are ranked based on their soil erosion severity. Under various scenarios of bioenergy land-use change (cropland to grass and grass to corn) on two land types (ESLs and non-ESLs) at three magnitudes (5%, 10% and 15% change), the projected ESL distributions are evaluated, and their contributions to soil erosion are assessed. Distributions of the ESLs vary geographically in the study region. Annual crops are shown to amplify the extent and intensity of ESLs, while perennial grasses aid in suppressing ESLs. At a river basin scale, this study provides a spatially explicit assessment of environmental impacts of bioenergy land-use in this important agricultural region.

Included in

Geography Commons