Second generation biofuels and risks of invasiveness in the United States and Canada
Second generation biofuels are derived from ligno-cellulosic plant material (e.g. perennial rhizomatous grasses and woody plant species) and are expected to be more efficient (i.e. have higher energy yields) than the first generation biofuel crops. A review has been published and the authors stated that the scale of biofuel cultivation which is estimated to reach 1.5 billion ha by 2050 worldwide (thus equaling all agricultural areas now under production) will increase the propagule pressure of potentially invasive plant crops. However, the risk of plant invasions and the subsequent economic and ecological negative impacts are rarely considered in the appraisal, development and regulation of different biofuel crops. Many of the traits that make ideal biofuel crops are common to invasive alien plants (rapid growth, high yields, perennial growth form, adaptability to a variety of habitats and climates, resistance to natural enemies, etc.). Numerous potentially invasive alien plants are therefore being considered for biofuel production in the US and Canada, yet the risk that these invasive alien plants may represent receives little attention in these countries’ biofuel policies. The authors consider that policy options to minimize biological invasions, such as banning the use of known invasive alien plants, ongoing monitoring of approved species, and using of buffer zones around cultivated areas, should be envisaged.
Smith AL, Klenk N, Wood S, Hewitt N, Henriques I, Yan N, Bazely DR (2013) Second generation biofuels and bioinvasions: an evaluation of invasive risks and policy responses in the United States and Canada. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 27, 30-42.