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Know the West

Reed between the lines


Regarding the commercialization of Arundo donax (giant reed) in Oregon: This is not an ideal approach to biomass production (HCN, 11/8/10). This huge invasive "grass" causes millions of dollars in damage to river systems here in California and elsewhere. Many conservationists and resource managers are extremely cautious about promoting the expansion of something that is a major fire risk and reduces riparian biodiversity. Furthermore, there is an unintended consequence of creating a commercial industry based on cultivation of a known noxious weed: It could make it impossible to seek cost-effective approaches to managing that weed elsewhere. We are investing in developing biological methods to control Arundo, and commercializing it would create a new interest group that would be a barrier to efforts to control its spread. Alternative biomass sources that are not known as noxious weeds would be far more desirable for biomass production, if it is indeed a good "green" solution to energy needs.

Tom Dudley
Marine Science Institute,         
University of California
Santa Barbara, California