Coastal eutrophication in Europe caused by production of energy crops

J. van Wijnen, W.P.M.F. Ivens, C. Kroeze, A.J. Löhr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In Europe, the use of biodiesel may increase rapidly in the coming decades as a result of policies aiming to increase the use of renewable fuels. Therefore, the production of biofuels from energy crops is expected to increase as well as the use of fertilisers to grow these crops. Since fertilisers are an important cause of eutrophication, the use of biodiesel may have an effect on the water quality in rivers and coastal seas. In this study we explored the possible effects of increased biodiesel use on coastal eutrophication in European seas in the year 2050. To this end, we defined a number of illustrative scenarios in which the biodiesel production increases to about 10–30% of the current diesel use. The scenarios differ with respect to the assumptions on where the energy crops are cultivated: either on land that is currently used for agriculture, or on land used for other purposes. We analysed these scenarios with the Global NEWS (Nutrient Export from WaterSheds) model. We used an existing Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Scenario for 2050, Global Orchestration (GO2050), as a baseline. In this baseline scenario the amount of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) exported by European rivers to coastal seas decreases between 2000 and 2050 as a result of environmental and agricultural policies. In our scenarios with increased biodiesel production the river export of N and P increases between 2000 and 2050, indicating that energy crop production may more than counterbalance this decrease. Largest increases in nutrient export were calculated for the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. Differences in nutrient export among river basins are large.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-111
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • biomass production
  • marine ecosystems
  • future-trends
  • biofuels
  • land
  • rivers
  • export
  • agriculture
  • nitrogen
  • waters


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