Restoring seaweed forests in the ocean could be a winning solution to climate change. Marine Permaculture SeaForestation project of the Climate Foundation aims to re-establish red seaweed forests that absorb carbon and offer a natural carbon sink.
While storing carbon at the bottom of the ocean, the seaweed mariculture also provides farmers with a food source as it regenerates the ecosystem and attracts fish and marine life. The project was selected as one of XPRIZE Carbon Removal Competition winners to receive $1 million support.
“We are so proud that Marine Permaculture SeaForestation has won a Milestone XPRIZE for Carbon Removal from a field of 1,100 registrants. We wish to thank the judges for validating the potential of Marine Permaculture to help provide food security for billions, regenerate marine ecosystems, and draw down gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere and into the deep sea, consistent with Earth’s natural mechanisms for removing carbon from the atmosphere,” said Dr Brian von Herzen, a Hertz Fellow, co-founder and executive director of the Climate Foundation.
Every square kilometre of seaweed permaculture has the ability to sequester thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. When seaweed platform grows, much of it falls to the deep seafloor where the carbon dioxide it has taken from the atmosphere during its growth remains sequestered for centuries.
Seawide is also a vital marine ecosystem. Global warming is causing plankton growth to slow down and as a food source for many fish, it also affects the fish population. Marine Permaculture platforms will have a significant impact on marine life as they would regenerate many of the ecosystems provided by offshore seaweed forests, including the provision of fish habitats.
That, in turn, would secure food for people around the world, especially in developing countries where they rely on the ocean for livelihood.
So far, the Marine Permaculture SeaForestation team created a small-scale 12 meter diameter prototype developed last year. The system was successful in growing red seaweed and survived a Category 5 Typhoon in December 2021.
The next phase of the project involves scaling it up in size by a factor of 10 in 2022 and then by another factor of 10 by 2023, to reach a farm system that is 1 hectare in size. Currently, the team is focusing on scaling up the marine permaculture arrays in the Philippines.
The ultimate goal of the project is to develop large-scale, autonomous seaweed cultivation to help regenerate seaweed ecosystem services offshore that have already been lost. The team will also examine and track this regenerative intervention as a blue carbon sink.
Using the power of the ocean to store CO2 is a proven natural solution. Seaweed growth tackles some of the biggest threats to humanity – climate change, food security, and lost habitats. A successful project in growing seaweed forests on a large scale that sequesters large amounts of CO2 would provide needed benefits to critical issues humanity is facing this century.