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Bioenergy and Biological Invasions: Ecological, Agronomic and Policy Perspectives on Minimizing Risk. CABI Invasives Series. 5

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Despite major international investment in biofuels, the invasive risks associated with these crops are still unknown. A cohesive state-of-the-art review of the invasive potential of bioenergy crops, this book covers the identified risks of invasion, distributions of key crops and policy and management issues. Including a section on developing predictive models, this book also assesses the potential societal impact of bioenergy crops and how to mitigate invasive risks.

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1 The Bioenergy Landscape: Sustainable Resources or the Next Great Invasion?

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The Bioenergy Landscape:

Sustainable Resources or the Next

Great Invasion?

Lauren D. Quinn,1* Jacob N. Barney,2 and

David P. Matlaga3

1Energy

Biosciences Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana, USA;

Tech, Blacksburg, USA; 3Susquehanna University,

Selinsgrove, USA

2Virginia

Abstract

Government policies have spurred efforts to develop dedicated bioenergy crops that could avoid greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel combustion and the consequences of land use change associated with “first-generation” biofuels. Dedicated bioenergy crops, slated to be cultivated on marginal lands, have been the subject of debate regarding their potential for invasion outside of cultivation. Critics have cited the weedy life-history strategies and history of invasion for some dedicated bioenergy feedstocks. Evaluations of feedstock invasion potential must balance the potential for negative ecological impacts resulting from future invasions with potential economic losses associated with an overly cautious approach. This already difficult situation is complicated further by the uncertain nature of candidate species traits, which are continually “improved” through traditional breeding and genetic modification techniques. Preventing invasions will require re-evaluation of antiquated weed laws that focus primarily on taxa impacting agriculture, not “natural” areas. In addition, prediction and prevention of future invasions will require the initiation of multi-year and multi-site empirical studies quantifying the invasion potential of novel feedstocks within their production regions. We acknowledge that establishment of a robust framework to evaluate the invasive potential of bioenergy crops will not be developed and implemented overnight; however, this book highlights important factors to consider now, and as the industry develops.

 

2 What Would Invasive Feedstock Populations Look Like? Perspectives from Existing Invasions

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What Would Invasive Feedstock

Populations Look Like?

Perspectives from Existing

Invasions

Lauren D. Quinn*

Energy Biosciences Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana, USA

Abstract

As the bioenergy industry develops globally, nations will be importing a variety of novel crops to be produced on large scales. Commercial and other intentional introductions of novel plants are not new, and have, in many cases, resulted in escape and establishment of invasive populations that negatively impact native ecosystems. Several authors have postulated that the influx of novel bioenergy feedstocks could have similar results, but because the production of second-generation crops is still in an early phase in most locations, the rate and impacts of escape remain to be seen. However, several taxa now being considered or used as feedstocks have previously been moved and established outside of their native regions. To prepare for the worst-case scenario in which invasive feedstocks are planted and allowed to escape and establish unchecked, four representative feedstocks with existing invasive populations are examined: (i) Arundo donax L. (giant reed); (ii) Miscanthus spp.

 

3 Potential Risks of Algae Bioenergy Feedstocks

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Potential Risks of Algae Bioenergy

Feedstocks

Siew-Moi Phang1* and Wan-Loy Chu2

1Institute

of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya, Kuala

Lumpur, Malaysia; 2International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur,

Malaysia

Abstract

Algal biofuels are an attractive alternative to fossil fuels due to their high productivity and the possible integration of their production systems with wastewater treatment and bioremediation of CO2. However, there has been increasing concern over the risks associated with the use of algae for biofuel production, particularly the potential for algae to escape and invade surrounding ecosystems. Within this context, there are specific concerns about growing genetically modified (GM) algae, especially those conferred with traits of enhanced competitiveness in monoculture systems, efficient nutrient utilization, and other traits that could cause unknown impacts in surrounding ecosystems. If feral populations of GM algae establish and proliferate within the environment, they may harm ecosystem structure and function, and may lead to harmful algae blooms. There is also a non-negligible risk of lateral transfer of genes from GM algae to other organisms within invaded ecosystems. To date, these risks have not been adequately assessed. We recommend that more empirical work must be completed (i.e., mesocosm experiments) as well as modeling simulations to effectively assess the risks of biofuel algae prior to large-scale production.

 

4 Gene Flow and Invasiveness in Bioenergy Systems

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Gene Flow and Invasiveness in

Bioenergy Systems†

Caroline E. Ridley1* and Carol Mallory-Smith2

1US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC; 2Oregon

State University, Corvallis, USA

Abstract

Gene flow between crops and their wild or weedy relatives can result in the establishment of hybrid populations outside of cultivation. Here, we examine the potential for gene flow between several emerging bioenergy feedstocks and their compatible relatives, and the factors that affect the magnitude and frequency of gene exchange. We also explore the potential that gene flow could lead to the escape of transgenes or invasion by resulting populations. A limited amount of information suggests that the potential for gene flow and invasion are low for jatropha (Jatropha curcas L.) and relatively greater for switchgrass

(Panicum virgatum L.) where these crops are currently being cultivated. Camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz.) likely falls somewhere in between these two species. Canola (Brassica napus L. and Brassica rapa L.), a widely-grown crop already being used as a source of bioenergy, is a well-studied system in which weedy populations with crop ancestry have been found and transgenes have been detected outside of cultivation. From this case study, we suggest that both a Best Management Plan should be developed to limit gene flow between emerging bioenergy feedstocks and wild or weedy relatives, and a Mitigation Plan should be in place to address unintended release of transgenes and appearance of potentially invasive populations.

 

5 Using Weed Risk Assessments to Separate the Crops from the Weeds

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Using Weed Risk Assessments to

Separate the Crops from the

Weeds

Jacob N. Barney,* Larissa L. Smith, and

Daniel R. Tekiela

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA

Abstract

The characters of the ideal bioenergy crop are shared by many of our worst invasive plants, and we are in need of methods to identify their invasive potential prior to large-scale introduction. Unfortunately, predicting which species will be invasive and in what location is often viewed as a near impossible task to most ecologists. Despite the underlying complexity of invasions, and the predictability challenge, weed risk assessments (WRA) have emerged as promising biosecurity tools designed to prevent the introduction of new invaders. WRAs are simple questionnaires on the species traits, introduction history, impact, and management that yield high or low risk scores, generally employed prior to the introduction of new species. WRAs have been used widely across the globe and boast >90% accuracy in predicting invasive species. We examined Australian and US WRA tools, and compared the WRA outcomes of several bioenergy crops against invasive species introduced for agronomic purposes and several traditional row crops. Candidate bioenergy crops were found to vary tremendously in their WRA scores, while current invaders all received high risk scores. Interestingly, several row crops received high risk scores, which we attribute to feral populations or weedy variants. We also examined how the WRAs would respond to infraspecific variation for several crops. Overall, the WRAs were not capable of distinguishing cultivar-level information, nor did they do well for species with little available information.

 

6 Bioenergy and Novel Plants: Th e Regulatory Structure

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Bioenergy and Novel Plants: The

Regulatory Structure

A. Bryan Endres*

University of Illinois, Urbana, USA

Abstract

In response to agricultural concerns, US legislatures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries enacted laws to regulate invasive plant species whose presence negatively affected crop yields. More recently, these laws regulating noxious weeds have expanded their focus to protect the environment and ecosystem functions. Concurrently, federal mandates have incentivized the commercialization of high-yielding and, in some cases, potentially invasive bioenergy feedstocks. This chapter considers the invasion potential of novel bioenergy crops within the context of conflicting regulatory provisions designed to prevent invasion and promote development of novel feedstocks. The fragmented nature of environmental regulations across multiple jurisdictions (local, state, national) necessitates increased attention by stakeholders to ensure cultivation of bioenergy crops do not result in a largescale invasion. To mitigate such an eventuality, it is recommended that pre-market invasion risk assessments and post-introduction negligence liability actions be codified into new and revised bioenergy laws at all levels of government.

 

7 “Seeded-yet-Sterile” Perennial Grasses: Towards Sustainable and Non-invasive Biofuel Feedstocks

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“Seeded-yet-Sterile” Perennial

Grasses: Towards Sustainable and

Non-invasive Biofuel Feedstocks

Russell W. Jessup* and Charlie D. Dowling

Texas A&M University, College Station, USA

Abstract

Sustainable cropping systems for leading candidate biofuel crops currently focus predominantly on perennial grasses for which assessments of invasiveness potential remain incomplete. Perennial C4 grasses have significant capacity for biomass accumulation across diverse environments, providing intrinsic value towards protection and restoration of underutilized, marginal, and degraded lands. Varied seed and vegetative reproduction mechanisms, however, contribute to their invasive potential. The development of feedstocks possessing the minimum vegetative propagules required for perennial life habit, combined with seed sterility, would therefore greatly reduce the risk of perennial biofuel crops becoming biological invaders. Pearl millet-napiergrass (“PMN”; Pennisetum glaucum [L.] R.

Br. × Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.) and kinggrass (P. purpureum × P. glaucum) are examples of such feedstocks, being “seeded-yet-sterile” crops in which fertile parents allow seeded production of hybrids that are subsequently both seed-sterile and devoid of rhizomes in biomass production fields. The use of genomics tools provide further tools suitable for both characterizing genetic mechanisms governing weediness and deploying markerassisted breeding programs for biofuel crops with reduced risk of negative environmental impacts.

 

8 Eradication and Control of Bioenergy Feedstocks: What Do We Really Know?

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Eradication and Control of

Bioenergy Feedstocks: What Do

We Really Know?

Stephen F. Enloe* and Nancy J. Loewenstein

Auburn University, Auburn, USA

Abstract

Feedstock removal is a matter of fundamental importance that is often completely overlooked or only given cursory attention in the current bioenergy dialogue. Feedstock removal generally refers to eradication or control efforts applied in a range of situations that may include everything from single escaped plants to entire production fields when crop rotation is desired. However, the terms “eradication” and “control” have been used carelessly, and there is much confusion about what they really mean. Furthermore, data is generally lacking on successful strategies for removal of most prospective bioenergy species from any situation. Within this chapter we seek to clarify the relevant terminology and provide an understanding of the current science of bioenergy feedstock removal. We discuss the three most important scenarios relevant to feedstock removal, which include: (i) eradication of escapes; (ii) removal from production fields during crop rotation; and (iii) removal from abandoned plantations if bioenergy markets collapse or fail to materialize. We also provide a practical discussion of the tools of feedstock removal including cultural, physical, biological, and chemical methods. We then review limited control and eradication data from the literature for three bioenergy candidate species that have some history as weeds and are currently at the heart of the bioenergy/invasive plant discussion: Arundo donax L. (giant reed), Pennisetum purpureum Schumacher (elephant grass or napiergrass), and certain

 

9 Good Intentions vs Good Ideas: Evaluating Bioenergy Projects that Utilize Invasive Plant Feedstocks

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9

Good Intentions vs Good Ideas:

Evaluating Bioenergy Projects that

Utilize Invasive Plant Feedstocks

Lloyd L. Nackley*

University of Cape Town and South Africa National Biodiversity

Institute, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

This chapter evaluates the sustainability of using naturalized or cultivated invasive plant species as feedstocks for bioenergy, including electrical power, liquid biofuels, and chemical substitutes. The evaluations apply a sustainability framework that recognizes economic and social development, as well as environmental protection. The necessity of using a sustainability framework is illustrated by revealing how historical bioenergy developments, which did not consider multiple aspects of sustainability (e.g., only economics), fell short of providing socially acceptable and environmentally neutral/ beneficial bioenergy. There are two divergent issues regarding the use of invasive plants in bioenergy: (i) dedicated energy feedstocks that may foster biological invasions; and (ii) harvesting existing invasive plant biomass for bioenergy conversion. Fertile dedicated feedstocks are shown to be a less sustainable option than sterile species with no history of invasion. No species with a history of invasion should be used as a dedicated energy feedstock. Harvesting existing invasive populations is shown to be economically unsustainable if the bioenergy conversion process is dependent on the invasive plant population. When invasive plant populations represent a small portion of the overall energy supply (<10%) there are possible synergies available for thermal energy conversion processes (e.g., bioelectricity, or syngas production), but not for liquid biofuels, which currently cannot tolerate a heterogeneous feedstock mix. Lastly, invasive plant-based biochar is deemed the most suitable option, because it meets all sustainability criteria.

 

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