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Potential negative effects of ocean afforestation on offshore ecosystems


Boyd, PW and Bach, LT and Hurd, CL and Paine, E and Raven, JA and Tamsitt, V, Potential negative effects of ocean afforestation on offshore ecosystems, Nature Ecology and Evolution, 6, (6) pp. 675-683. ISSN 2397-334X (2022) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© Springer Nature Limited 2022.

DOI: doi:10.1038/s41559-022-01722-1


Our scientific understanding of climate change makes clear the necessity for both emission reduction and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). The ocean with its large surface area, great depths and long coastlines is central to developing CDR approaches commensurate with the scale needed to limit warming to below 2 °C. Many proposed marine CDR approaches rely on spatial upscaling along with enhancement and/or acceleration of the rates of naturally occurring processes. One such approach is ‘ocean afforestation’, which involves offshore transport and concurrent growth of nearshore macroalgae (seaweed), followed by their export into the deep ocean. The purposeful occupation for months of open ocean waters by macroalgae, which do not naturally occur there, will probably affect offshore ecosystems through a range of biological threats, including altered ocean chemistry and changed microbial physiology and ecology. Here, we present model simulations of ocean afforestation and link these to lessons from other examples of offshore dispersal, including rafting plastic debris, and discuss the ramifications for offshore ecosystems. We explore what additional metrics are required to assess the ecological implications of this proposed CDR. In our opinion, these ecological metrics must have equal weight to CDR capacity in the development of initial trials, pilot studies and potential licensing.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ocean afforestation, kelp farming, CO2 removal
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Biological oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of pelagic marine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Boyd, PW (Professor Philip Boyd)
UTAS Author:Bach, LT (Dr Lennart Bach)
UTAS Author:Hurd, CL (Professor Catriona Hurd)
UTAS Author:Paine, E (Mrs Ellie Paine)
ID Code:155105
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (FT200100846)
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2023-01-30
Last Modified:2023-03-20

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