UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Optimizing the Benefits of Invasive Alien Plants Biomass in South Africa Rawat, Yashwant S.; Singh, G. S.; Tekleyohannes, Anteneh T.


The current political situation in South Africa is seeking opportunities to promote sustainable development and use of renewable resources for energy, poverty alleviation, economic development, and environmental protection (e.g., mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions). The present study is based on a critical literature review and synthesis of policy advice in South Africa. The study comprehensively examined the knowledge base and gathered relevant empirical findings and perspectives so as to identify the gaps, trends, and patterns in the optimal management and utilization of invasive alien plants (IAPs) biomass, thereby supporting evidence-based practice. Additionally, the literature review was supported by the first-hand experience of invasive alien plants management and its biomass utilization. This research proposes long-term options for optimizing the costs and benefits of invasive alien plants biomass and meeting rising energy demand. Biomass from the country’s approximately 300 “Working for Water (WfW) Projects” might be used for bioenergy, firewood, charcoal, and other value-added forest products, both for internal and international use. The extraction and use of biomass from invasive alien plants for green energy and other valuable products would aid in the elimination of hazardous invasive species and reduce the amount of fuel in the fields, as well as fire and flood threats. Biomass from invasive alien plants clearings can be distributed to rural regions and informal settlements as a supply of firewood with the aim of reducing reliance on nearby forests, conserving the environment and biodiversity, minimizing forest degradation, supporting climate change, and enhancing energy efficiency and wood waste management (e.g., recycling and prevention) for green economic development and industrial transformation. The findings of this study imply that for competitive biomass-to-energy conversion and bio-economic applications for the use of invasive alien plant biomass, cost management, particularly for transportation, and significant regulatory incentives are essential. In addition, effective policy instruments that aid in the promotion of innovative systems and knowledge generation are required so that biomass can be optimally used for bioenergy and other competitive bio-economic applications.

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