The energy requirement of species at each trophic level in an ecological pyramid is a function of the number of organisms and their average mass. Regarding human populations, although considerable attention is given to estimating the number of people, much less is given to estimating average mass, despite evidence that average body mass is increasing. We estimate global human biomass, its distribution by region and the proportion of biomass due to overweight and obesity.
The global demand for biomass for food, feed, biofuels, and chemical production is expected to increase in the coming decades. Microalgae are a promising new source of biomass that may complement agricultural crops. Production of microalgae has so far been limited to high-value applications. In order to realize large-scale production of microalgae biomass for low-value applications, new low-cost technologies are needed to produce and process microalgae. A major challenge lies in the harvesting of the microalgae, which requires the separation of a low amount of biomass consisting of small individual cells from a large volume of culture medium. Flocculation is seen as a promising low-cost harvesting method. Here, we overview the challenges and possible solutions for flocculating microalgae.
The considerable increase in biodiesel production worldwide in the last 5 years resulted in a stoichiometric increased coproduction of crude glycerol. As an excess of crude glycerol has been produced, its value on market was reduced and it is becoming a “waste-stream” instead of a valuable “coproduct”. The development of biorefineries, i.e. production of chemicals and power integrated with conversion processes of biomass into biofuels, has been singled out as a way to achieve economically viable production chains, valorize residues and coproducts, and reduce industrial waste disposal. In this sense, several alternatives aimed at the use of crude glycerol to produce fuels and chemicals by microbial fermentation have been evaluated. This review summarizes different strategies employed to produce biofuels and chemicals (1,3-propanediol, 2,3-butanediol, ethanol, n-butanol, organic acids, polyols and others) by microbial fermentation of glycerol. Initially, the industrial use of each chemical is briefly presented; then we systematically summarize and discuss the different strategies to produce each chemical, including selection and genetic engineering of producers, and optimization of process conditions to improve yield and productivity. Finally, the impact of the developments obtained until now are placed in perspective and opportunities and challenges for using crude glycerol to the development of biodiesel-based biorefineries are considered. In conclusion, the microbial fermentation of glycerol represents a remarkable alternative to add value to the biodiesel production chain helping the development of biorefineries, which will allow this biofuel to be more competitive.
Miscanthus sacchariflorus is a fast-growing C(4) perennial grass that can naturally hybridize with M. sinensis to produce interspecific hybrids, such as the sterile triploid M.× giganteus. The creation of such hybrids is essential for the rapid domestication of this novel bioenergy crop. However, progress has been hindered by poor understanding of the environmental cues promoting floral transition in M. sacchariflorus, which flowers less readily than M. sinensis. The purpose of this work was to identify the flowering requirements of M. sacchariflorus genotypes in order to expedite the introduction of new germplasm optimized to different environments. Six M. sacchariflorus accessions collected from a range of latitudes were grown under controlled photoperiod and temperature conditions, and flowering, biomass, and morphological phenotypic data were captured. Results indicated that M. sacchariflorus, irrespective of origin, is a quantitative short-day plant. Flowering under static long days (15.3h daylength), compared with shorter photoperiods, was delayed by an average 61 d, with an average associated increase of 52% of above-ground biomass (DM plant(-1)). Timing of floral initiation occurred between photoperiods of 14.2h and 12.1h, and accumulated temperatures of 553-1157 °C above a base temperature of 10 °C. Miscanthus sacchariflorus flowering phenology closely resembles that of Sorghum and Saccharum, indicating potentially similar floral pathways and suggesting that determination of the underlying genetic mechanisms will be facilitated by the syntenic relationships existing between these important C(4) grasses.
Mongolian Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) is one of the principal tree species in the network of Three-North Shelterbelt for windbreak and sand stabilisation in China. The functions of shelterbelts are highly correlated with the architecture and eco-physiological processes of individual tree. Thus, model-assisted analysis of canopy architecture and function dynamic in Mongolian Scots pine is of value for better understanding its role and behaviour within shelterbelt ecosystems in these arid and semiarid regions. We present here a single-tree functional and structural model, derived from the GreenLab model, which is adapted for young Mongolian Scots pines by incorporation of plant biomass production, allocation, allometric rules and soil water dynamics. The model is calibrated and validated based on experimental measurements taken on Mongolian Scots pines in 2007 and 2006 under local meteorological conditions. Measurements include plant biomass, topology and geometry, as well as soil attributes and standard meteorological data. After calibration, the model allows reconstruction of three-dimensional (3D) canopy architecture and biomass dynamics for trees from one- to six-year-old at the same site using meteorological data for the six years from 2001 to 2006. Sensitivity analysis indicates that rainfall variation has more influence on biomass increment than on architecture, and the internode and needle compartments and the aboveground biomass respond linearly to increases in precipitation. Sensitivity analysis also shows that the balance between internode and needle growth varies only slightly within the range of precipitations considered here. The model is expected to be used to investigate the growth of Mongolian Scots pines in other regions with different soils and climates.
Species are linked to each other by a myriad of positive and negative interactions. This complex spectrum of interactions constitutes a network of links that mediates ecological communities' response to perturbations, such as exploitation and climate change. In the last decades, there have been great advances in the study of intricate ecological networks. We have, nonetheless, lacked both the data and the tools to more rigorously understand the patterning of multiple interaction types between species (i.e., “multiplex networks”), as well as their consequences for community dynamics. Using network statistical modeling applied to a comprehensive ecological network, which includes trophic and diverse non-trophic links, we provide a first glimpse at what the full “entangled bank” of species looks like. The community exhibits clear multidimensional structure, which is taxonomically coherent and broadly predictable from species traits. Moreover, dynamic simulations suggest that this non-random patterning of how diverse non-trophic interactions map onto the food web could allow for higher species persistence and higher total biomass than expected by chance and tends to promote a higher robustness to extinctions.
Bioenergy will be one component of a suite of alternatives to fossil fuels. Effective conversion of biomass to energy will require the careful pairing of advanced conversion technologies with biomass feedstocks optimized for the purpose. Lignocellulosic biomass can be converted to useful energy products via two distinct pathways: enzymatic or thermochemical conversion. The thermochemical pathways are reviewed and potential biotechnology or breeding targets to improve feedstocks for pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion are identified. Biomass traits influencing the effectiveness of the thermochemical process (cell wall composition, mineral and moisture content) differ from those important for enzymatic conversion and so properties are discussed in the language of biologists (biochemical analysis) as well as that of engineers (proximate and ultimate analysis). We discuss the genetic control, potential environmental influence, and consequences of modification of these traits. Improving feedstocks for thermochemical conversion can be accomplished by the optimization of lignin levels, and the reduction of ash and moisture content. We suggest that ultimate analysis and associated properties such as H:C, O:C, and heating value might be more amenable than traditional biochemical analysis to the high-throughput necessary for the phenotyping of large plant populations. Expanding our knowledge of these biomass traits will play a critical role in the utilization of biomass for energy production globally, and add to our understanding of how plants tailor their composition with their environment.
Plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) are studied as complements/alternatives to chemical fertilization in agriculture. Poor information however, exists on the potential of PGPR from undisturbed ecosystems. Here, we evaluated the plant growth-promoting (PGP) effect of rhizobacterial consortia from undisturbed Chilean arid-ecosystems (Consortium C1) and agro-ecosystems (Consortium C2) on plant biomass production. The PGP effects of C1 and C2 were assayed in wheat seedlings (Triticum aestivum L.) grown in pots under growth chamber conditions and in pots placed in an open greenhouse under natural conditions, using two different Chilean Andisols (Piedras Negras and Freire series) kept either at 30% or 60% of their maximum water holding capacity (MWHC). PGP effects depended on the soil type, MWHC and the growth conditions tested. Although both consortia showed PGB effects in artificial soils relative to controls in growth chambers, only C1 provoked a PGP effect at 60% MWHC in phosphorus-poor soil of the ‘Piedras Negras’ series. At natural conditions, however, only C1 exhibited statistically significant PGP effects at 30% MWHC in ‘Piedras Negras’, yet and most importantly allowed to maintain similar plant biomass as at 60% MWHC. Our results support possible applications of rhizobacterial consortia from arid ecosystems to improve wheat growth in Chilean Andisols under water shortage conditions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Microplastics (plastics <5 mm diameter) are at the forefront of current environmental pollution research, however, little is known about the degradation of microplastics through ingestion. Here, by exposing Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) to microplastics under acute static renewal conditions, we present evidence of physical size alteration of microplastics ingested by a planktonic crustacean. Ingested microplastics (31.5 µm) are fragmented into pieces less than 1 µm in diameter. Previous feeding studies have shown spherical microplastics either; pass unaffected through an organism and are excreted, or are sufficiently small for translocation to occur. We identify a new pathway; microplastics are fragmented into sizes small enough to cross physical barriers, or are egested as a mixture of triturated particles. These findings suggest that current laboratory-based feeding studies may be oversimplifying interactions between zooplankton and microplastics but also introduces a new role of Antarctic krill, and potentially other species, in the biogeochemical cycling and fate of plastic.
Global warming and ocean acidification are forecast to exert significant impacts on marine ecosystems worldwide. However, most of these projections are based on ecological proxies or experiments on single species or simplified food webs. How energy fluxes are likely to change in marine food webs in response to future climates remains unclear, hampering forecasts of ecosystem functioning. Using a sophisticated mesocosm experiment, we model energy flows through a species-rich multilevel food web, with live habitats, natural abiotic variability, and the potential for intra- and intergenerational adaptation. We show experimentally that the combined stress of acidification and warming reduced energy flows from the first trophic level (primary producers and detritus) to the second (herbivores), and from the second to the third trophic level (carnivores). Warming in isolation also reduced the energy flow from herbivores to carnivores, the efficiency of energy transfer from primary producers and detritus to herbivores and detritivores, and the living biomass of detritivores, herbivores, and carnivores. Whilst warming and acidification jointly boosted primary producer biomass through an expansion of cyanobacteria, this biomass was converted to detritus rather than to biomass at higher trophic levels-i.e., production was constrained to the base of the food web. In contrast, ocean acidification affected the food web positively by enhancing trophic flow from detritus and primary producers to herbivores, and by increasing the biomass of carnivores. Our results show how future climate change can potentially weaken marine food webs through reduced energy flow to higher trophic levels and a shift towards a more detritus-based system, leading to food web simplification and altered producer-consumer dynamics, both of which have important implications for the structuring of benthic communities.