A new study from Deakin University and the University of Technology Sydney suggests seaweed, the grass of the ocean, could be a vital tool in the battle against climate change.
For years, seaweed and other coastal plant species were assumed to be not effective for carbon storage. However, the research findings suggest ‘blue carbon’ stocks – the carbon that is isolated by the ocean and coastal habitats – can be used to store carbon. The scientists made their discovery after examining the cellular composition and the decomposition process of a number of species of seaweed.
“Macroalgae in particular are of interest because they generally produce a lot of biomass and are easily transported making them potential ‘donors’ to blue carbon stocks.”
The researchers note that the species of seaweed will not break down but store carbon. Also, while the seaweed’s death will ultimately see the sequestered carbon released, if the coastal habitats are constantly replenished the carbon can, in theory, be sequestered indefinitely.
“We don’t know if this carbon is as chemically stable as that of coastal plant species or whether seaweed carbon can be stored long-term in coastal habitats.”
The principle is effectively the same as planting trees to ‘fight’ global warming. However, the research implies seaweed may be better for long-term storage. While blue stocks do need to be replaced as seaweed dies, if seaweed lasts longer than trees then perhaps large-scale seaweed ‘farms’ in which to store carbon could exist on our coastlines in the future.