Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The significance of seaweed


Carbon storage by coastal macroalgae is a significant, but neglected, aspect of the global carbon budget.

Our understanding of the global carbon cycle has been reshaped by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) researchers who have helped to reveal a major role for the abundance of seaweed growing around the world’s coasts.

Intertidal macroalgae on the coast of Greenland. © 2016 KAUST

Some years ago, Carlos Duarte, now director of the Red Sea Research Center at KAUST, was among the first scientists to establish that marine vegetation plays a major role in the movement of carbon through the environment and all living organisms. The dominant players in the waters of coastal zones are macroalgae – more commonly known as seaweeds, such as kelp and sargassum.

Now Duarte and Dorte Krause-Jensen from Aarhus University in Denmark have reviewed and quantified the role of macroalgae in trapping carbon. Their estimate is a highly significant 173 trillion grams of carbon sequestered in coastal seaweed, globally, per year [1].

“Marine macroalgae have largely been excluded from discussion of marine carbon sinks,” says Duarte. He explains that this is due to neglecting the accumulation of macroalgae in deep-sea sediments. His latest review suggests that around 90 percent of global sequestration of carbon by macroalgae could be due to the transport of this vegetation into the deep sea.

The researchers propose two main mechanisms for this transport – seaweed drifting through under-sea canyons and deposition by sinking when the marine vegetation loses its natural buoyancy.

“These processes in many vegetated coastal habitats sequester ten times more carbon dioxide per hectare than a hectare of Amazonian forest,” says Duarte. This highlights the significance of seaweed when compared to a habitat often used as a carbon sink yardstick in discussions about climate change .

“Understanding the major carbon sinks in the biosphere is of paramount importance to identify where there are management opportunities to mitigate climate change,” says Duarte. He explains that understanding where carbon goes provides opportunities for potential interventions that absorb more of the carbon dioxide that human activity releases into the atmosphere.

This latest analysis adds to other recent insights into carbon sequestration gained by Duarte and his colleagues, including new understanding of the role of marine bacteria, and of hydrocarbons deposited into the ocean from the atmosphere (see related articles).

Duarte now plans to use advanced techniques to identify and quantify the significance of macroalgal carbon deposition in existing sediments. One tool will be DNA analysis, which can reveal which species contributed to the carbon in sediments.

The global importance of climate change makes such work vital for planning effective management of the planet.

Associated links

Journal information

[1] Krause-Jensen, D. & Duarte, C. M. Substantial role of macroalgae in marine carbon sequestration. Nature Geoscience advance online publication, 12 September 2016 (doi: 10.1038/NGEO2790).

Michelle D'Antoni | Research SEA
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>