Climate change is the long-term shifts of temperatures and typical weather patterns. These shifts are due to natural influences, such as volcanic eruptions, changes in the sun, and human activities, such as burning fossils, deforestation, and intensive farming.
In recent years, climate change has become a major global problem threatening the environment and the economy. Damaging events, such as frequent and intense hurricanes, rising sea levels, and drought, have led the world to turn to seaweed as a potential solution to combating climate change.
Seaweed is a form of marine algae that grows in the ocean. There are three main types of seaweed: brown, red, and green, and they come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Because of its amazing ability to absorb carbon dioxide, seaweed has gained serious interest as a proposed answer to climate restoration.
Below we look more at how seaweed can help compact climate change.
Seaweed’s Ability to Absorb Carbon Dioxide
Like other plants, seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and releases oxygen into the atmosphere. Through this process, seaweed absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus, helping reduce the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
In recent years, research has discovered seaweed’s capability to sequent large amounts of carbon dioxide. In particular, research shows that seaweed can absorb more than 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide globally, with an estimated average square kilometer absorbing more than 1000 metric tons yearly.
Seaweeds also grow faster than land plants, with some species, such as the giant kelp growing at a fast rate of up to 15 inches per day. This rapid growth allows it to absorb more carbon dioxide than land plants.
Studies also show that seaweed can absorb carbon dioxide 20 times faster than land plants, thus representing it as a potential solution to compacting climate change.
Additionally, when seaweed dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, where it decomposes. This process sinks carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the ocean’s sediments, which helps slow the rate of climate change.
Seaweed as a Potential Source of Biofuel
Besides being an effective carbon sink, seaweeds are increasingly becoming a viable renewable resource for biofuel production. Converting seaweed into biofuel can help reduce reliance on fossil fuels, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Various processes, such as anaerobic digestion, fermentation, and pyrolysis, are employed to convert seaweed into biodiesel and bioethanol.
One significant benefit of using seaweed biofuel is that it is carbon-neutral and has little impact on global warming. Burning seaweed releases less carbon dioxide than burning fossil fuels, making it a potential solution to combating climate change.
What’s more, unlike trees, it does not compete for land-based demands nor requires freshwater or fertilizers to grow, making it a sustainable energy source.
Although using seaweed as a biofuel is still in its early stages of development, effectively using it as a biofuel would be a major step in the fight against climate change. Therefore, more research is needed to find the most efficient ways to harvest and process it.
Seaweed as a Sustainable Food Source
Despite being an important food source for many marine species, seaweed is also a food source for humans and land animals.
It is a high-protein, vitamin, and mineral-rich diet. It is also a good source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Not forgetting, it is a low-calorie dish, thus an excellent choice for individuals looking to lose weight.
With the world’s population continually increasing, so will the demand for food. As a result, seaweed will be used to supplement land-based agriculture. This is because it is a nutritious and sustainable resource that grows extremely fast and does not require fresh water, soil, or fertilizer.
Furthermore, since it requires few inputs, it will help reduce pressure on land-based agriculture, making it a potential solution to combating climate change.
Additionally, due to its high nutrient value, it is also used in formulating animal feeds for chicken, cattle, and aquaculture.
Seaweed as a Potential Source of Natural Fertilizer
Another remarkable prospect of seaweed is its capability to be used as a fertilizer for organic farming. It contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as other minerals and trace elements that are essential for plant growth.
Besides, seaweed fertilizer comes in different forms, such as pellets, powder, and liquid, and can be applied in many ways. For example, the fertilizer can be applied directly to the soil or mixed into compost. Besides that, it can also be used as a top dressing or mulch.
Another important aspect of the fertilizer is that it does not pollute the environment and is safe for humans and animals.
This makes it an excellent alternative to chemically produced fertilizers, which significantly contribute to greenhouse gases. As a result, seaweed has emerged as a potential solution to combating climate change.
Challenges and Limitations
Due to seaweed’s ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and its potential as a sustainable food and biofuel source, seaweed is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. However, as a climate change solution, seaweed is facing several challenges.
First, it is not widely grown on a commercial scale yet. Therefore, the supply of seaweed available to be used as a carbon sink is limited.
Second, if its cultivation is done improperly, it can lead to pollution and the depletion of fish stocks.
However, despite all these challenges, with proper management, seaweed cultivation is a promising solution to combating climate change.
How is seaweed affected by climate change?
Seaweeds are extremely sensitive to temperature and light conditions, and any minor variations can cause them to shift their growth patterns. As a result, as ocean temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, their abundance and distribution are declining over time.
How can we protect seaweed?
Despite being a valuable marine resource, seaweed is under threat from various human activities. However, there are several measures that we can take to protect them. The first measure is to prevent pollution and coastal development that harms seaweed beds. Another alternative is establishing marine protected areas where fishing and other human activity are restricted to allow it to regenerate.
What are the challenges of seaweed farming?
Although seaweed farming is becoming more popular, the lack of enough knowledge about its cultivation is a major challenge facing this industry. This is because the sector is relatively new, and there isn’t enough research on the best ways to grow and harvest it. Also, climate change and environmental conditions such as storms damage seaweed crops and negatively affect their abundance and distribution.
How long can seaweed survive?
Depending on the type of seaweed and the conditions in the ocean, seaweed can survive from a few days to several years. Some species are annuals, meaning they only live for one year, while others are perennial, meaning they can live for several years. For example, red algae have a shorter life span than green algae. While seaweed can survive for a long time, it is not immortal and dies from various causes, such as disease, predation, and changes in ocean conditions.