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World Ocean Day

How Protecting the Earth’s Oceans Secures the Future We All Want

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Companies like Acadian Seaplants™ have the power to address the crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

In March of 2023, a milestone was hit. After almost two decades of discussions, nations around the world agreed on language to protect the world’s biodiversity in international waters of the ocean (also known as the High Seas Treaty). This followed closely on the heels of the historic UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal this past December, where nations committed to protecting 30 per cent of areas under their own jurisdiction by 2030. The Canadian government was chief among those nations to pledge their commitment to the 30 by 30 goal.


Conserving and sustaining the ocean

But long before this, Acadian Seaplants Limited had been working to conserve and sustain the ocean and the connected marine ecosystems on the North Atlantic coast of Canada. Apart from being ecologically important, one of the seaweeds growing there (known as Ascophyllum nodosum) has been identified as a commercially valuable species, used in agriculture for crops and animal feed as well as in human wellness products.

In fact, Acadian Plant Health™, a division of Acadian Seaplants Limited, uses Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed to create biostimulants that play a key role in today’s agricultural systems. Biostimulants are substances, like seaweed extracts, that are applied to plants or soil to enhance plant growth and development, as well as to improve plant tolerance to environmental stress. In today’s volatile climate, agriculture has been dealing with increasingly unpredictable scenarios such as drought, flooding, extreme temperatures, and elevated salinity. Demand for agricultural products derived from this seaweed is growing as it’s a natural solution that offsets the impact of climate change that farmers are experiencing around the world.

Prioritizing sustainability

Even 40 years ago, the owner and founder of Acadian Seaplants Limited knew that the seaweed harvested on the coast of Nova Scotia was going to play an important role in global agriculture. But his vision was to ensure the company operated an environmentally sound business model that protected the marine animals that inhabited the seaweed beds as well as ensuring a regenerative resource for generations to come.

To do this, he invested in a resource science team which fully appreciated that how they harvested the seaweed was as important to sustainability as how much seaweed was harvested. Today, these scientists are dedicated to monitoring the intertidal habitats where wild seaweeds like Ascophyllum nodosum grow and are making a concerted effort to promote seaweed and water conservation methods. From the tools used to harvest, to ensuring the seaweed is cut higher and away from the rocky substrate where the holdfast is attached to going out in the field and evaluating the status of the Ascophyllum nodosum resource and the community structure beneath before, during, and after the harvest, it’s all part of Acadian’s philosophy of providing high-quality products while respecting the sustainability of the resource itself. Indeed, much of Acadian’s research is shared publicly so others can benefit from its harvest practices and conservation efforts. One such example on canopy removal’s effect on marine community structure can be found here.

Tackling climate change

Infographic displaying how seaweed can benefit the world by removing carbon dioxide from the marine environment

Conservation is an important consideration as we start to see the added benefits that seaweed and the ocean can bring to the world. Seaweed itself has great potential to tackle climate change by absorbing CO2 as it grows. Understanding just how much CO2 has been absorbed in the seaweed beds was a recent goal for the Acadian resource science team. It turns out that 362 kilograms of CO2 are absorbed in every ton of seaweed Acadian harvests. For perspective, that’s how much CO2 is created from a one-way commercial airline flight from Canada to Hawaii. And because of how the seaweed is harvested (think of it like mowing a lawn), that seaweed bed regrows the next year and absorbs carbon again and again. This creates a continuous cycle of removing CO2 from the marine environment. Additionally, other interesting benefits were discovered. With every ton of seaweed harvested, 4.17 kilograms of nitrogen and 0.26 kilograms of phosphorous are also removed from the ocean, creating a positive effect on eutrophication and acidification.

The ocean holds huge potential to deliver on global climate goals if only we all maintain responsible and restorative seaweed practices. Acadian Seaplants endeavours to do just that.

For more information on Acadian Seaplants Limited, visit its resource science and resource management teams to learn more.

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