Invasive species

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Bioenergy > Issues > Environment > Biodiversity > Invasive species


Invasive species are species that are not native to an area and which may compete with and displace native species.

There is some concern that certain plants promoted for use as feedstocks for biofuels could be invasive species disruptive to native species and ecosystems.

News

  • 'Invasive' biofuel crops require monitoring and mitigation measures, 21 January 2010 by ENN/European Consumers Bioenergy Division: "Biofuel crops will impact on biodiversity and natural ecosystems unless tightly controlled, says a panel of European experts."
    • The Bern Convention "adopted a recommendation on potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops (Recommendation 141, 2009). They warn that some biofuel crops are able to escape as pests, and in so doing impact on native biodiversity. As rural communities plan to grow more biofuel crops, the likelihood of new and harmful 'invasions' will increase apace."
    • "Therefore the Council of Europe made recommendations, which are legally binding on member states:
1. Avoid the use of biofuel crops already recognised as invasive;
2. Carry out risk assessments for new species and genotypes;
3. Monitor the spread of biofuel crops into natural habitats and their effects on native species;
4. Mitigate the spread and impact on native biodiversity wherever biofuel crops escape cultivation."[2]

Reports

  • Biofuel crops pose invasive pest risk, 22 April 2009 by ENN/Public Library of Science: Researchers concluded "that biofuel crops proposed for use in the Hawaiian Islands are two to four times more likely to establish wild populations or be invasive in Hawaii and in other tropical areas when compared to a random sample of other introduced plants."
    • "The researchers used a weed risk assessment that examines a plant's biology, geographic origin, pest status elsewhere, and published information on its behavior in Hawaii to identify plants with a high risk of becoming invasive pests in Hawaii or other Pacific islands."
    • "'By identifying the species with the highest risk, and pushing for planting guidelines and precautionary measures prior to widespread planting, we hope to spare the Hawaiian Islands and similar tropical ecosystems from future economic and environmental costs of the worst invaders while encouraging and promoting the use of lower risk alternative crops,' said Christopher Buddenhagen, co-author of "Assessing Biofuel Crop Invasiveness: A Case Study."[3]
      • The article noted that "Despite reservations about their adverse environmental impacts, no attempt has been made to quantify actual, relative or potential invasiveness of terrestrial biofuel crops at an appropriate regional or international scale, and their planting continues to be largely unregulated."[4]
  • Fuel crops 'pose invasion risk', 20 May 2008 by BBC: "Nations should avoid planting biofuel crops that have a high risk of becoming invasive species," according to a report by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) released at a meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
    • The report urges that biofuel crop selection be preceded by careful assessments, and that plants selected should be native species and those with low risk of spreading and degradation of native habitat. Species selection is site-specific: "For example, a crop like Arundo donax (giant reed), which would cause concern in North America, would not cause the same concern in its native habitat in places like Eurasia....Giant reed, which is naturally flammable, increases the risk of wildfires in places such as California, threatening human settlements as well as native species."[5]
    • Download the GISP report, "Biofuel crops and the use of non-native species: Mitigating the risks of invasion", at http://www.gisp.org/publications/briefing/index.asp.



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