A seaweed forest, © Laio, AI-generated
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More than anyone thought before, seaweed forests are crucial in storing CO2. A study led by Dr. Karen Filbee-Dexter of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and the University of Western Australia highlights the impressive capabilities of seaweed forests in capturing and storing carbon. According to the research, approximately 15% of the carbon captured by these underwater forests sinks to deep ocean waters each year, where it can remain stored for centuries. This finding emphasizes the critical role that seaweed forests play in mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Global impact and hotspots identified

The research utilized global ocean models to track carbon transport from seaweed forests to deep ocean sinks. It identified specific regions, including those around Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Chile, as particularly effective in carbon removal. These areas are home to extensive seaweed ecosystems that efficiently capture and store carbon, making them key players in the global carbon cycle. The study’s findings underscore the importance of protecting and managing these crucial habitats to maintain carbon storage capabilities.

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Human impacts and the need for conservation

Seaweed forests, however, are under threat from various human activities such as ocean warming, marine heatwaves, nutrient pollution, and overfishing. These factors contribute to the rapid decline of these vital ecosystems, leading to a significant reduction in their capacity to sequester carbon. Prof. Dr. Jack Middelburg of Utrecht University stresses the urgency of protecting, managing, and restoring seaweed forests to ensure the continued long-term storage of CO2 in ocean and coastal ecosystems. He warns that the deterioration of seaweed forests could halt carbon uptake, exacerbating climate change.

Potential solutions and future directions

In light of these findings, the study suggests potential solutions, such as seaweed cultivation at sea, which can significantly contribute to CO2 removal. This approach could help offset the loss of natural seaweed forests and enhance carbon sequestration efforts. Additionally, incorporating seaweed into the global ocean carbon budget is essential for accurately assessing its impact on climate change mitigation. The research published in Nature Geoscience provides a comprehensive analysis of seaweed forests’ role in carbon storage and calls for immediate action to protect these valuable ecosystems.

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