Biological invasions – Risks of bioenergy crops

Bioenergy crops are energy taken from biomass which consists of wood, manure, or charcoal (biological material.) It has been theorized that there are benefits to bioenergy crops, but this article will explore the risks of cultivating bioenergy crops, which can lead to negative risks for biodiversity.

Biodiversity thrives in their natural ecosystems and altering it can have a significant[GU1]  impact on the species. Native species that live in forests or forestry sectors in countries rely on the shade, height, or hull of trees for protection. The use of trees for lumber or bioenergy products like wood pellets puts[GU2]  biodiversity at a disadvantage.

Transforming the habitats of native species can leave a pathway open for non-native species. Removing key elements like trees or certain species of plants may deteriorate the protection[GU3]  of native species causing an opening for invasive alien species. Biological invasions affect disease dynamics, goods and services to society, populations, and processes within ecosystems. Transportation by human dispersal has only exacerbated the problem of biological invasions.

Another risk to growing bioenergy crops is the significant increase in water stress for growing crops over large areas. Furthermore, monoculture energy plantations, irrigation, and fertilizer additions for biomass production could lead to land degradation. The rippling effects of this may result in side effects for desertification, water scarcity, biodiversity, and food insecurity. Taking up land for bioenergy will harm ecosystems, leading to invasive alien species finding pathways to spread.

While bioenergy crops have advantages, the current disadvantage of this practice opens pathways to invasive alien species, more research must be done before it can be considered. There have been successes regarding sustainable development and way to mitigate the impact of invasive alien species. In the Caribbean region, plans to revamp biosecurity protocols are already being considered. You are invited to read these two policy briefs, ‘Improving Biosecurity will Safeguard our Health, Economy and Irreplaceable Biodiversity’, and ‘A Sustainable Trust Fund for Managing Invasive Alien Species in the Caribbean.’


Natural Resources Defense Council – New Report Recognizes Some Risks of Bioenergy, Misses Others

FAO – Bioenergy

Frontiersin – Biological Invasions in Conservation Planning: A Global Systematic Review

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center – Biological Invasions

Policy Brief – Improving Biosecurity will Safeguard our Health, Economy, and Irreplaceable Biodiversity

Policy Brief – A Sustainable Trust Fund for Managing Invasive Alien Species in the Caribbean