Biodiversity and disease risk in an algal biofuel system: An experimental test in outdoor ponds using a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design

Spenser L. Widin, Kia M. Billings, John McGowen, Bradley J. Cardinale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

For outdoor cultivation of algal feedstocks to become a commercially viable and sustainable option for biofuel production, algal cultivation must maintain high yields and temporal stability in environmentally variable outdoor ponds. One of the main challenges is mitigating disease outbreaks that leads to culture crashes. Drawing on predictions from the ‘dilution effect’ hypothesis, in which increased biodiversity is thought to reduce disease risk in a community, a teste of whether algal polycultures would reduce disease risk and improve feedstock production efficiencies compared to monocultures was performed. While the positive benefits of biodiversity on disease risk have been demonstrated in various systems, to the best of our knowledge this is the first test in an algal biofuel system. Here, the results a before-after-control-impact (BACI) experimental design to compare mean monoculture (control) and polyculture (impact) yield, stability, and productivity before and after fungal infection when grown in 400-L outdoor raceway ponds are presented. It has been found that polycultures did not experience a reduction in disease risk compared to monocultures or differ in production efficiencies throughout the course of the 43-day experiment. These results show that polyculture feedstocks can maintain similar levels of productivity, stability, and disease resistance to that of a monoculture. Determining whether these results are generalizable or represent one case study requires additional outdoor experiments using a larger variety of host and pathogen species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0267674
JournalPloS one
Volume17
Issue number4 April
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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