April 22, 2009

Biofuel crops can pose invasive pest risk

A University of Hawaii study has raised concerns about the impact of unregulated planting of biofuel crops and their potential invasiveness.

The research, conducted by the university's Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, raised concerns about biofuel crop impacts on Hawaii's environment. The researchers concluded 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 with a random sample of other introduced plants.

Although biofuel crops are often touted as a green solution to U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the researchers said such crops actually might be aggressive invasive plants.

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 the research.

The study appears in the online journal PLoS One.