University Of Tasmania

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Seaweed ecosystems may not mitigate CO2 emissions

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 04:23 authored by John Barry GallagherJohn Barry Gallagher, Victor ShelamoffVictor Shelamoff, Cayne LaytonCayne Layton

Global seaweed carbon sequestration estimates are currently taken as the fraction of the net primary production (NPP) exported to the deep ocean. However, this perspective does not account for CO2 from the consumption of external subsidies. Here, we clarify: (i) the role of export relative to seaweed net ecosystem production (NEP) for a closed system and one more likely open to subsidies; (ii) the importance of subsidies by compiling published estimates of NEP from seaweed-dominated ecosystems; and (iii) discuss their impact on the global seaweed net carbon balance and other sequestration constraints as a mitigation service. Examples of seaweed NEP (n = 18) were sparse and variable. Nevertheless, the average NEP (−4.0 mmol C m–2 d–1 SE ± 12.2) suggested that seaweed ecosystems are a C source, becoming increasingly heterotrophic as their export is consumed. Critically, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions was mixed relative to their replacement or baseline states, and where CO2 is supplied independently of organic metabolism and atmospheric exchange, we caution a sole reliance on NEP or NPP. This will ensure a more accurate seaweed mitigation assessment, one that does exceed their capacity and is effective within a compliance and carbon trading scheme.


Publication title

ICES Journal of Marine Science








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Academic Press Ltd Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

24-28 Oval Rd, London, England, Nw1 7Dx

Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Climate change mitigation strategies