Earth Science News  





. Biofuels As Invasive Species

Susan Post, Illinois Natural History Survey, in front of a research plot of Miscanthus, a potential biofuel crop.
by Staff Writers
Fayetteville AK (SPX) Sep 25, 2006
As the United States looks to crops as possible future sources of energy, a University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues call for caution, citing the possibility of some biofuel crops becoming invasive species. Robert N. Wiedenmann, professor of entomology, and his colleagues S. Raghu, Roger C. Anderson, Curt C. Daehler, Adam S. Davis, Dan Simberloff and Richard N. Mack put forth their argument for ecological studies of biofuel crops in the policy forum in the Sept. 22 issue of Science.

"Most of the traits that are touted as great for biofuel crops - no known pests or diseases, rapid growth, high water-use efficiency - are red flags for invasion biologists," Wiedenmann said. "We want to start a dialog and approach the question of biofuels systematically."

President George Bush announced the U.S. renewable energy initiative in his 2006 State of the Union address, bringing to the forefront the identification and use of potential biofuels as alternative energy sources. The authors of the Policy Forum article in Science call for an examination of potential invasiveness as crops are examined for their biofuel potential and before putting such crops into large-scale production.

Seemingly benign crops that have become invasive species have already occurred in the United States. Wiedenmann and his colleagues cite the case of Sorghum halepense, otherwise known as Johnson grass. Johnson grass was introduced as a forage grass and now has become an invasive weed in many states, causing up to $30 million annually in losses for cotton and soybean crops in just three states.

One proposed biofuel crop, Miscanthus, can grow up to eight feet in six weeks. Wiedenmann describes it as "Johnson grass on steroids."

"Plants like these, particularly grasses, have great potential from an energy standpoint, but the benefits need to be balanced with the costs," Wiedenmann said.

Although invasive species are traditionally thought of as introduced species, a native species also can become invasive through alterations to the environment, Wiedenmann said. One example: the removal of oak and chestnut trees along much of the east coast has led to sugar maples becoming invasive in some areas.

Invasive species alter ecosystems in ways that can cause both ecological and economic harm. Since 1999, the U.S. government has had an invasive species council, which develops invasive species management plans.

Researchers investigating the potential for biofuels tend to be engineering or agricultural specialists who are looking at maximizing energetic conversion or crop size. Wiedenmann and his colleagues want to see ecologists at the table with engineering and agricultural researchers addressing the potential for invasiveness. He cites a lack of communication in one government organization where some scientists were examining a plant for heavy metal mitigation, while another group of scientists were working on biological control of the same plant.

Wiedenmann is a professor in the UA System's Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. The article, "Adding Biofuels to the Invasive Species Fire?" can be found on page 1742 of the Sept. 22 issue of Science.

Related Links
University of Arkansas
Powering The World in the 21st Century

Ceramic Microreactors Developed For On-Site Hydrogen Production
Champaign IL (SPX) Sep 20, 2006
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have designed and built ceramic microreactors for the on-site reforming of hydrocarbon fuels, such as propane, into hydrogen for use in fuel cells and other portable power sources. Applications include power supplies for small appliances and laptop computers, and on-site rechargers for battery packs used by the military.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Ten Years Needed To Recover From Pakistan Quake
  • Analysis: Strengthening FEMA in DHS
  • Ideas To Rebuild Hurricane-Devastated New Orleans Showcased At Italian Fair
  • China's natural disasters cost billions, kill thousands: report

  • Research Detects Human-Induced Climate Change At A Regional Scale
  • Short-Term Ocean Cooling Suggests Global Warming Speed Bump
  • British Scientists Tell Exxon To Stop Anti-Climate Change Campaign
  • Melting Greenland Ice Sheet Spells More Bad News On Climate Change

  • New Technology Helping Foster The 'Democratization Of Cartography'
  • SAIC Becomes Authorized Supplier For Geospatial-Intelligence Solutions
  • DLR And Astrium Sign Contract For German Satellite TanDEM-X
  • Raytheon Completes NPOESS Segment Acceptance Testing Ahead of Schedule

  • Ceramic Microreactors Developed For On-Site Hydrogen Production
  • Branson Made Green Pledge Under Pressure From Gore And Turner
  • Biofuels As Invasive Species
  • CNOOC Clinches Gas Supply Deal With BP

  • FluWrap: Monitor 'H5N1 Lite' For Spread
  • Fight Against Animal Epidemics Pressing
  • HPV Vaccine Drawing Attention On All Sides
  • Analysis: Malaria In The Spotlight

  • Turf Wars Escalate Between People And Elephants In India Northeast
  • Pregnant Prehistoric Fossil Offers Clues To Past
  • Fruit Fly Aggression Studies Have Relevance To Animal, Human Populations
  • Most Diverse Marine Life Found Off Indonesia's Papua Province

  • Child Hospital Visits Rise With Pollution In Hong Kong
  • Floating Garbage Piling Up In Three Gorges Dam
  • Birth Defects Rise In China Due To Pollution
  • Philippines Oil-Spill Tanker 'May Have Sunk During Cargo Heist'

  • How The Brain Keeps Emotions At Bay
  • Meet the Earliest Baby Girl Ever Discovered
  • Oldest Juvenile Skeleton Discovered Will Help Piece Together Human Development
  • Beijing Citizens Live Longest In China

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement