Green Fuel is Possible with Artificial Algae Ecosystems_Featured_, Alternative Energy Sunday, May 20th, 2012
(PhysOrg) Algae could become an important source of sustainable biofuel, as production doesn’t compete with food crops for land. But we may need to change the way we grow algae from closed systems to open ponds if it is to be low-carbon and cost-effective.
This is because current algae production in closed systems – usually for cosmetic ingredients – uses too much energy keeping the ecosystem isolated from the surrounding environment.
To overcome this issue, scientists from the University of Cambridge suggest that when grown in open ponds, algae should be supplemented with multiple species that help support the algae in some way. This would make the system less vulnerable to outside influences such as predators.
They say that ecosystems with greater numbers of species are more stable and more resilient to change than monoculture systems made up of just one crop. The scientists have coined the term synthetic ecology to describe the creation of artificial ecosystems with multiple species.
“A complex synthetic community mirrors natural communities much more closely,” argues Elena Kazamia, whose scientific review is published in the Journal of Biotechnology. “Monoculture is not very natural. There is a tendency towards complexity in the natural environment – communities get more complex with time.”
In a natural ecosystem there are plenty of potential roles, or niches, to be filled by species. The more developed the ecosystem is, the greater its complexity as more of these roles will be filled. These complex ecosystems often reach a stable state, which is best adapted to the local conditions, and all of the niches are filled.
It is difficult for any new species to get a foothold in the community as they have to compete against established species in that niche. As new species are unlikely to invade successfully, the ecosystem doesn’t change. For the algae, it could mean that no pest species will be able to easily establish themselves in the crop area.
Read the full article: