Cultivating marine macroalgae in CO2-enriched seawater: a bio-economic approach

Highlights

  • Seasonal variability of temperature under ambient or enriched CO2 conditions affect productivity in two model fleshy seaweeds, Ulva rigida and Gracilaria conferta.
  • The growth of these seaweeds can be doubled when exposed to high CO2 concentrations.
  • Maximal short-run profits were obtained at ca. 22.5 °C and 27.5 °C for U. rigida and G. conferta, respectively.
  • Based on the seaweeds respond to external seasonal changes in temperature and CO2 concentration, farmers may decide what and where to grow seasonally.

Abstract

By the end of the current century atmospheric CO2 concentration may reach 1000 ppm, more than twice the present level set at ca. 400 ppm. Marine macroalgae (seaweeds) contribute to global primary production and by taking up CO2 they may ameliorate and regulate global climate change. Seaweeds also have direct and indirect economic importance by providing food and bioactive compounds for human benefit. Nonetheless, all these benefits could be jeopardized by the ongoing pressures, both local and global, on marine environments. In this study we examine the effects of dissolved CO2 and seasonal seawater temperature on the growth rates (measured weekly changes in biomass and expressed on a daily basis) of two model species, Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) and Gracilaria conferta (Rhodophyta), which are common in the intertidal zone of the Israeli Mediterranean Sea, and cultivated by the local seaweed industry. The seaweeds were grown in land-based 40 L fiberglass tanks fertilized with sufficient N and P, supplied with running seawater and continuous air bubbling to keep equal exposure of the seaweeds to nutrients and light. The tanks were also provided with aeration with regular air (ambient CO2, ~ 400 ppm) or CO2-enriched air (~780 ppm). Seaweeds exposed to CO2–enriched seawater grew faster, 32.5 and 8.5% growth per day for U. rigida and G. conferta, respectively. Following calculations of productivity rates, market price, and input cost, we estimate production and show a quadratic production function with respect to temperature for each CO2 concentration. Thus, there is an optimal temperature that maximizes seaweed output. Based on the production function estimates and using market prices, maximal short-run profits were obtained at ca. 22.5 °C and 27.5 °C for U. rigida and G. conferta, respectively. These results may provide useful information for seaweed growers on what and where to grow seasonally, and how farming activities should adapt to external changes in temperature and CO2 concentration.

Shamir S. Z., Shamir Z. Z., Tchetchik A., Haim A., Tchernov D. & Israel Á., 2021. Cultivating marine macroalgae in CO2-enriched seawater: a bio-economic approach. Aquaculture: 737042. doi: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2021.737042. Article (subscription required).


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