Biodiversity impacts of bioenergy production: microalgae vs. first generation biofuels

Correa, Diego F., Beyer, Hawthorne L. , Possingham, Hugh P. , Thomas-Hall, Skye R. and Schenk, Peer M. (2017) Biodiversity impacts of bioenergy production: microalgae vs. first generation biofuels. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 74 1131-1146. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2017.02.068


Author Correa, Diego F.
Beyer, Hawthorne L.
Possingham, Hugh P.
Thomas-Hall, Skye R.
Schenk, Peer M.
Title Biodiversity impacts of bioenergy production: microalgae vs. first generation biofuels
Journal name Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1879-0690
1364-0321
Publication date 2017-07-01
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.rser.2017.02.068
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 74
Start page 1131
End page 1146
Total pages 16
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon Press
Collection year 2018
Language eng
Abstract Energy and fuel demands, which are currently met primarily using fossil fuels, are expected to increase substantially in the coming decades. Burning fossil fuels results in the increase of net atmospheric CO2 and climate change, hence there is widespread interest in identifying sustainable alternative fuel sources. Biofuels are one such alternative involving the production of biodiesel and bioethanol from plants. However, the environmental impacts of biofuels are not well understood. First generation biofuels (i.e. those derived from edible biomass including crops such as maize and sugarcane) require extensive agricultural areas to produce sufficient quantities to replace fossil fuels, resulting in competition with food production, increased land clearing and pollution associated with agricultural production and harvesting. Microalgal production systems are a promising alternative that suffer from fewer environmental impacts. Here, we evaluate the potential impacts of microalgal production systems on biodiversity compared to first generation biofuels, through a review of studies and a comparison of environmental pressures that directly or indirectly impact biodiversity. We also compare the cultivation area required to meet gasoline and distillate fuel oil demands globally, accounting for spatial variation in productivity and energy consumption. We conclude that microalgal systems exert fewer pressures on biodiversity per unit of fuel generated compared to first generation biofuels, mainly because of reductions in direct and indirect land-use change, water consumption if water is recycled, and no application of pesticides. Further improvements of technologies and production methods, including optimization of productivities per unit area, colocation with wastewater systems and industrial CO2 sources, nutrient and water recycling and use of coproducts for internal energy generation, would further increase CO2 savings. Overall pollution reductions can be achieved through increased energy efficiencies, along with nutrient and water recycling. Microalgal systems provide strong potential for helping in meeting global energy demands sustainably.
Keyword Biofuel crops
Ecological footprint
Land-use change
Life cycle assessment
Tropic
Vertebrate
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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