Bioenergy could help limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels while supplying almost a fourth of the world's renewable energy needs by 2050. However, the deployment of bioenergy raises concerns that adoption at meaningful scales may lead to unintended negative environmental consequences. Meanwhile, the full consolidation of a bioenergy industry is currently challenged by a sufficient, resilient, and resource-efficient biomass supply and an effective conversion process. Here, we provide a comprehensive analysis of how stable isotope approaches have accelerated the development of a robust bioeconomy by advancing knowledge about environmental sustainability, feedstock development, and biological conversion. We show that advances in stable isotope research have generated crucial information to (1) gain mechanistic insight into the potential of bioenergy crops to mitigate climate change as well as their impact on water and nutrient cycling; (2) develop high-yielding, resilient feedstocks that produce high-value bioproducts in planta; and (3) engineer microbes to enhance feedstock conversion to bioenergy products. Further, we highlight knowledge gaps that could benefit from future research facilitated by stable isotope approaches. We conclude that advances in mechanistic knowledge and innovations within the field of stable isotopes in cross-disciplinary research actions will greatly contribute to breaking down the barriers to establishing a robust bioeconomy.
- stable isotopes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Waste Management and Disposal