Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Portland Blrm 251, Oregon Convention Center
Aviva Glaser, National Wildlife Federation
Julie Sibbing, National Wildlife Federation
The explosion in federal and state mandates and incentives for renewable fuels and energy in recent years has led to a greatly increased demand for cheap and plentiful biomass from a variety of plants and aquatic micro-organisms. In order to meet this demand, non-native and potentially invasive species are increasingly being cultivated or considered for cultivation for use as biomass. The potential for widespread cultivation of exotic species could pose significant risks to native ecosystems and possibly even to commercial agriculture. Magnifying this risk is the fact that some of the very characteristics that make a plant ideal as a source of biomass (hardiness, high above-ground biomass production, tolerance, and competitiveness, among others) are the same characteristics that make a plant potentially a highly invasive species. Already, there are examples of intentional cultivation for biomass purposes of species that are known to be invasive. Arundo donax, for instance, has begun to be used as a bioenergy crop in Florida, despite the fact that it has been known to invade native riparian ecosystems in this region and displace habitat for native species.
Widespread cultivation of genetically modified native and non-native species, as well as deployment of theoretically sterile hybrid cultivars, is becoming increasingly likely as well. Should these species escape and enter nearby habitats, the results are potentially devastating for native ecosystems. A somewhat unique aspect to the issue of invasives from biomass is the proliferation of interest in conventional and genetic modification of native grass species, which are designed to be grown in close proximity to remaining pristine stands of native grasslands. Studies are just beginning to examine the impacts to native ecosystems of modified native species that become established outside of target areas.
This symposium will bring together top experts from a variety of disciplines to present the current state of knowledge on the invasives potential of biomass species. Presenters will cover the anticipated scope of the potential invasives problem, ongoing research on specific species that may have the potential for invasiveness, methodologies for screening and mitigating potentially invasive bioenergy species, as well as an assessment of the legal and policy framework within the United States that could minimize or mitigate this risk.