Impacts of Fungal Disease on Algal Biofuel Systems: Using Life Cycle Assessment to Compare Control Strategies

Elena M. Miyasato, Bradley J. Cardinale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While climate change has incentivized attention on sustainable fuel sources, algae has positioned itself as a both promising and problematic biofuel feedstock. Diseases such as fungal pathogens cause costly algal feedstock crashes, but the life cycle assessments (LCAs) used to analyze the viability of algal feedstocks for biofuel have yet to consider the impact of disease on life cycle metrics. Here, we incorporate a disease model into a well-documented LCA for algal biorefineries to compare two sustainability metrics, energy return on investment (EROI) and global warming potential (GWP). We begin by showing that failure to consider disease leads to overly optimistic LCA metric outputs. Then, we compare two leading control strategies of disease─chemical and biological. Our analyses show that biological engineering of a multispecies consortium of algae has a greater positive impact on LCA metrics than chemical control of the fungal pathogen using a fungicide. We expand how and when bi-cultures might advantageously exhibit the “dilution effect” whereby differentially susceptible species exhibit compensatory dynamics that stabilize feedstock production. Our results emphasize the impact of disease and suggest that multispecies consortia of algae can be biologically engineered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the economic viability of biofuel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2602-2610
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 14 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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