When we think ’emissions’ we think car exhausts and industrial cooling towers.Wrong. 20-30% of global emissions are a consequence of losses and degradation of natural ecosystems’ Trumper et. al.(2009).
CARBON COLOUR KEY
“Brown Carbon” Green house Gases (a gas which absorbs radiation and traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, e.g. CO2)
“Black Carbon” The particles leftover from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels (soot and dust), which has a greater effect on radiation transmission. This in turn can directly and indirectly reduce the albedo effect of global snow and ice.
“Green Carbon” Carbon incorporated into plant biomass and the soils below.
and our friend…
“Blue Carbon“- carbon captured by the world’s ocean critters, and over half of all carbon in living organisms resides here, under the glassy and deceiving barren big blue. Important coastal vegetation habitats such as mangroves and seagrasses which acquire the carbon stored in marine sediments are being lost at a rate 5-10 times higher than the rainforests (Nellemann et. al. , 2009).
So what has this carbon rainbow got to do with seaweeds?… Well it has been noted in the ‘Blue Carbon’ UNEP Report that biofuels from land crops often replace natural and more efficient carbon capturing ecosystems (grasslands and forests), producing more CO2 than the replacement of fossil fuels.
Could seaweed culture for the production of biofuels be carried out on a large-scale without the degradation of what carbon capture was already going on? Could it possibly even enhance the carbon capturing ability of a local environment by increasing sedimentation and acting as an artificial habitat for creatures that call kelp home?…these are yet unanswered questions.However what is clear, is the ability of marine vegetation to naturally store CO2 which is being prematurely released into the atmosphere through ecosystem degredation.
So back to the blue carbon, unlike rainforests which store carbon for decades, the uptake of carbon by marine organisms (seaweed and seagrasses alike) can naturally lock up and store these green house gases for millions of years in seabed sediments, and have been doing so for the many years they have existed before us.
Just another reason to become a fan of all things algae. Blue Carbon.
Seaweed…It’s in your OJ first thing in the morning and your toothpaste last thing at night, and yet it’s not the most beloved of marine species.
With media giants such as Disney conjuring up the cute coral reef ambassador ‘Nemo’, it’s no wonder that seaweed lags in the popularity race that public awareness so often succumbs to. However, I hope this blog can offer an enthusing insight into the world of seaweed science, I think it’s about time we ’embrace the slime’!
I have only recently joined the Scottish Marine Institute as a PhD research student, and will be working on the environmental impacts of large-scale seaweed farms for biofuel production. It’s not the most glamorous of marine biologist jobs, but coming from a dairy farming background the wellies are a welcome working accessory.
Seaweedscience to follow!