Seaweed aquaculture: A promising tool for the restoration and sustainable development of coastal environments or an expensive end-of-pipe technology?Internal

RECOVER

Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: December 12, 2019
End Date: December 13, 2019
Host: GEOMAR
Venue: Kiel, Germany
Contact: Dr. Birgit Quack
E-mail: bquack [at] geomar.de
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2018 call for FWS and WG proposals
Total Budget: €10,700
Funds Granted: €7,500

While researchers have recently explored the environmental effects of important seaweed monocultures and the use of seaweeds in integrated marine aquaculture on a local scale, there is still much uncertainty about the broader consequences for marine biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles. Important biogeochemical parameters in seaweed aquaculture modeling studies, such as oxygen, are still missing. The balance between nutrient uptake and farm yield – as well as maximum yield of desired constituents and seaweed mortality – is sensitive. A further identification of possible interactions between farmed and surrounding organisms, marine and benthic biogeochemistry and the atmospheric environment is therefore necessary.

More research is urgently needed and horizon scanning across research disciplines involving stakeholders is required to identify the next pressing research issues in order to address sustainable use, deployment and extension of macro-algae farming. Furthermore, there is a need to not only establish seaweed aquaculture as a profitable and sustainable source of income, but also to obtain a holistic view on seaweed farming as a tool for carbon fixation and the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In this context the possible socioeconomic and environmental adverse effects must also be considered, discussed and further investigated.

The RECOVER foresight workshop will delve into these questions, and through a mix of experts and stakeholders, attempt to identify a sustainable path forward.

KEY OBJECTIVES

The workshop will bring together marine biogeochemists, macro-algae experts, modelers, engineers, architects and seaweed farmers, as well as plankton and fish ecologists and regional experts to discuss pathways towards the realisation of sustainable pilot-scale trials in three sample regions, each with unique impacts and constraints:

  • The Bight of Dakar (a heavily polluted environment with direct waste water discharge)
  • Madeira (run–off in the oligotrophic ocean)
  • The Southwest Baltic Sea (subject to eutrophication from surface runoff)

Terrestrial water and waste water managers as well as coastal engineers shall be available to discuss how to integrate the pilot with land based mitigation measures for the reduction of eutrophication.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES 

  1. Position paper in a high-impact journal
  2. Horizon2020 project proposal
  3. Pilot scale trial in Horizon2020 or other funding opportunities

EXPECTED IMPACT

By working with an array of experts and stakeholders, the workshop intends to combine practical application with scientific investigations in order to progress the state of research towards practical implementation guided by environmental and sustainable ethics.

Summary

The environmental effects of important seaweed monocultures and the use of seaweeds in integrated marine aquaculture on a local scale have increasingly been the focus of a number of research activities, however their role within a broader context of marine biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles is less understood. From 12-13 December 2019, twenty experts met at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany to discuss this topic and explore future research paths forward for the sector, which has the potential to be profitable, sustainable, and a tool for conservation and restoration of marine environments.

The EuroMarine sponsored workshop RECOVER featured a highly interactive round-table debate on both the possibilities and obstacles facing European and African algal aquaculture. The participants contributed their expert insight from a wide variety of fields including ecology, oceanography, modelling, coastal engineering, algae farming and marine biogeochemistry. The overall goal of the two day workshop was to formulate pathways towards the development of pilot scale trials in the Bay of Dakar, Madeira and the south-western Baltic Sea, each of which posed its own unique challenges.

The intensive workshop concluded with the agreement that algal aquaculture can play a useful role in improving the status of disturbed or polluted coastal habitats, even potentially restoring them to a good status, but the implementation of such aquaculture needs to be carefully tailored to each region's particular objectives and reqirements. This workshop took an important step in identifying the key variables any pilot scale study will need to incoporate, and has laid the groundwork for future endeavours in advancing this sector.

Outputs

In addition to outlining the way forward in this research area, RECOVER has established a network of researchers and environmentalists that will continue to work towards the development of pilot experiments in the three targeted sample regions. This group has also begun work on a position paper based on the outcomes of the workshop.