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Bioenergy Feedstocks at Low Risk for Invasion in the USA: a “White List” Approach

Abstract

Proposed introductions of non-native bioenergy feedstocks have resulted in disagreements among industry, regulators, and environmental groups over unintended consequences, including invasion. Attempting to ban or “black list” known or high probability invasive species creates roadblocks without offering clear alternatives to industry representatives wishing to choose low invasion risk feedstocks. Therefore, a “white list” approach may offer a proactive policy solution for federal and state agencies seeking to incentivize the cultivation of promising new feedstocks without increasing the probability of non-native plant invasions in natural systems. We assessed 120 potential bioenergy feedstock taxa using weed risk assessment tools and generated a white list of 25 non-native taxa and 24 native taxa of low invasion risk in the continental USA. The list contains feedstocks that can be grown across various geographic regions in the USA and converted to a wide variety of fuel types. Although the white list is not exhaustive and will change over time as new plants are developed for bioenergy, the list and the methods used to create it should be immediately useful for breeders, regulators, and industry representatives as they seek to find common ground in selecting feedstocks.

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Acknowledgments

This concept was developed during a December 2012 meeting on legislative and policy tools to address the risks posed by potentially invasive bioenergy feedstocks. We thank the host organizations (National Wildlife Federation and University of Illinois) and the participants for their perspectives and insights. Aimee Cooper assisted with completion of risk assessments. Comments from B. Endres and J. Sibbing improved the manuscript. We also acknowledge funding support from the Energy Biosciences Institute, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the University of Florida Dean for Research and Dean for Extension, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Correspondence to Lauren D. Quinn.

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Quinn, L.D., Gordon, D.R., Glaser, A. et al. Bioenergy Feedstocks at Low Risk for Invasion in the USA: a “White List” Approach. Bioenerg. Res. 8, 471–481 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12155-014-9503-z

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Keywords

  • Biofuel
  • Energy crop
  • Invasive plant
  • Weed risk assessment
  • White list