An ocean area almost the size of Australia could support commercial seaweed farming worldwide, providing food for people, feed additives for livestock and alternative fuel, according to new research.
Seaweed farming is a nascent industry globally, but studies show that if it could make up 10% of human food by 2050, it would reduce an area twice the size of France by 110 million hectares (272 million acres). can
But there are a number of potential negative impacts on marine life that need to be balanced against the benefits of the global seaweed farming industry, the study’s authors said.
The study looked at 34 species of seaweed and where they could possibly grow, and then narrowed it down to places with calm enough waters and close enough to populations where farms could be established.
About 650 million hectares (1,606 million acres) have been identified as suitable for seaweed cultivation, with the largest areas in Indonesia and Australia, both of which have large ocean regions under their economic control.
“Cultivating seaweed for food, feed and fuel on even a small portion of the 650 m ha of suitable ocean can have enormous benefits for land use, waste reduction, water and fertilizer use,” the authors write.
Scott Spillias, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia, led the study Published in Nature Sustainabilitysaid: “People all over the world look at the ocean as this great ‘untapped’ resource and ask if we should be using it more.”
One of the biggest benefits of research will be the cultivation and use of red Asparagopsis as a cattle feed additive resulting in dramatically lower methane emissions from cows. A supplement based on seaweed It is reported that it was put up for commercial sale to farmers in Australia last year.
The study suggested reducing methane emissions from use Asparagopsis It could save 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2050, the same as India’s current greenhouse gas footprint.
Spillias said that including more seaweed in the human diet could also provide benefits. In parts of Asia, seaweed makes up 2% of diets, but globally increasing this to 10% could save 110 million hectares of land currently used to grow food.
“Basically it’s people eating more vegetables,” he said. “If we grow seaweed, it’s best for people to eat it rather than feed it to livestock, but that will require some big cultural changes.”
The nine authors from Australia and Austria said more work is needed to understand the costs and benefits of any increase in seaweed farming, but “the magnitude of the potential benefits supports the idea that ocean seaweed farming could play an important role in our work.” response to global sustainability challenges.”
A A review of the risks of expanding seaweed farming in Europe in 2019 highlighted concerns that farms could disrupt the balance of marine ecosystems and alter the movement of water around coastlines.
“Converting even a few million hectares is a huge improvement,” Spillias said. “We’re changing habitats and introducing materials to places we haven’t been before.
“Many seaweed farms now use plastic ropes and nets, and we know the impact of plastic on the ocean. “If this is going to be done on a large scale, we need to find better materials.”
I said that if there is a global push to grow seaweed, it could have social consequences.
“The seafood industry doesn’t have a great record on human rights, and if we’re farming seaweed mostly out of sight, then we have to think about the people in the industry and make sure they’re treated fairly,” he said.
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