Tag Archives: Seaweed

203. Ocean Science Can Save the World

8 Feb

The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the Earth’s water. Ocean researchers say that we know more about our moon than the deep ocean. Recently, there is more concern about oceans as a source of food supply and because of their role in climate-change. As I will describe below, better usage of the oceans can both feed the world and save us from the dangers of global warming.

Johnson and Davis (TED-ED June 2019) and a World Bank Group Report have suggested improvements to ocean farming techniques. Currently, there is an aquaculture, in which many large pens, offshore, are used to hold and grow fish for human consumption. The fish are crowded and stressed. Large concentrated piles of waste result and can lead to disease. Often, breaks in the nets can cause a dangerous release of the penned fish.

It is better to  farm seaweedSeaweed-imageand shellfish. These species have a very low maintenance. The seaweed feed off of sunlight and operators do not need to supply food. The seaweed can be prepared in various ways so as to be more appetizing, can be ground-up and mixed with animal feed, and can also be used as a bio-fuel. Growing seaweed can help with the depletion of fish and can counteract ocean acidification by absorbing CO2.

“Seaweed” is a group of algae that are only found in marine waters (salty sea waters). In terms of  human consumption, it produces algae protein and algae oil similar to soy. It also is a source of valuable omega-3 fatty acids similar to fish oils. There are three different types: red, brown and green.

Growing massive amounts of seaweed can help with global warming.  Seaweed captures CO2, removing it from the atmosphere. A good reference for this  feature is: Tim Flannery, TEDSummit 2019 Can seaweed help curb global warming.”  One problem with this system is that seaweed eventually rots and the carbon is released back into the environment. A solution is to lower the seaweed in the water to a depth where it will best retain the CO2. Scientists are working on various solutions to the release. As research continues, it may be possible to develop seaweed species that are more efficient in using CO2 and in keeping it stored.

There are many publications regarding the depletion of fish in our oceans.  A really good discussion of this is: Jackie Savitz, TEDxMidAtlantic 2013, Save the oceans, feed the worldShe describes how good international regulations can restore depleted species and greatly increase the fish available for increasing populations. 

Angelicque White (TED@NAS, Nov. 2019) writes about microbes in the oceans, that indicate and affect ocean health. When there are major changes such as ocean warming, the microbes are the first affected. 

Ocean microbes are tiny plants and animals that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are at the bottom of the food chain. All animals in the ocean depend ultimately on this basic food source. Microbes absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, so they improve the composition of the atmosphere. 

Climate-change results in warming water, which tends to increase harmful algal blooms. The extra CO2 in the air also leads to ocean acidification, which has many adverse effects on ocean life.  The ecosystem health is generally affected. The changes impact economically important fisheries, like crab and salmon; and also affected are marine mammals like whales, dolphins, seals, and otters. Also important is that warmer waters increase the intensity of hurricanes.

Here are all the climate-change and other ocean problems listed by Angelicque White: harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, eutrophication, melting of the polar ice caps, expansion of oxygen minimum zones, pollution, loss of biodiversity,  and overfishing.

My conclusion and main point here, is that ocean science has the potential to help with many world problems. A responsible government will support research in this area.