Research Needs in Ecosystem Services to Support Algal Biofuels, Bioenergy and Commodity Chemicals Production in the UK


A report on Research Needs in Ecosystem Services to Support Algal Biofuels, Bioenergy and Commodity Chemicals Production in the UK was produced for the Algal Bioenergy SIG by Dr Claire Smith and Dr Adrian Higson of NNFCC in 2012.

This report is used to inform decisions on activities undertaken by the AB-SIG. The report examines UK capabilities in this area, identifies current and future market dynamics and the potential environmental consequences of commercial algal projects. The report focuses on the implications of producing large scale commercial products. 

Eleven research challenges are highlighted in the report. These are focused upon NERC's strategic priorities, but they also are embedded in the wider research remit of the other Research Councils of the UK. Many are complementary to the current strategic priorities of BBSRC which includes bioenergy and industrial biotechnology. Research challenges have been identified as areas in which the UK could develop a position at the forefront of research in this emerging area.

The eleven research challenges are:

  1. Identify the key environmental factors influencing yield and biochemical composition.
  2. Identify suitable sites for algal production.
  3. Develop life cycle assessment capability including carbon balance and sustainability information suitable for aquatic and marine systems.
  4. Assess the potential for algal diseases to affect both cultivated algae and wild stocks.
  5. Identify the biosecurity issues associated with using non-native or improved algal strains.
  6. Identify the role of algae in carbon and nutrient cycling.
  7. Identify to what extent algal farms attract or repel marine mammals.
  8. Understand to what extent algal cultivation affects biodiversity in the farm, the water column and benthic environment.
  9. Understand the atmospheric effects resulting from trace gas emissions from algal growth.
  10. Identify the best configuration for an algal farm to maximise yield and environmental benefits and minimise environmental impacts.
  11. Identify mechanisms to overcome nutrient limitation in offshore environments.

Click here to download the full report.

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Dr Michelle Carter
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