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Seaweed farms significantly reduce nitrogen, pollution – TAU study

CM 30/08/2021

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A joint study from Tel Aviv University and the University of California, Berkeley has suggested that the establishment of seaweed farms in river estuaries significantly reduces nitrogen concentrations in the estuary and prevents pollution in estuarine and marine environments. 
The study was led by doctoral student Meiron Zollmann, under the supervision of Prof. Alexander Golberg and Prof. Alexander Liberzon at TAU and conducted in collaboration with Prof. Boris Rubinsky at UC Berkeley. It was published in the prestigious journal Communications Biology.
Researchers built a large seaweed farm for growing ulva sp. green macroalgae in the Alexander River estuary in Israel, off the Mediterranean Sea, and data was collected over two years. The river discharges polluting nitrogen from nearby upstream fields and towns into the sea, making it a perfect location for the study. 

TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY, home of the Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges (credit: CHEN GALILI)TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY, home of the Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges (credit: CHEN GALILI)
Nitrogen is a necessary fertilizer for agriculture, but it comes with an environmental cost, according to researchers. When nitrogen reaches the ocean, it disperses randomly, which damages various ecosystems. As a result, governments spend a significant amount of money on reducing nitrogen concentrations in water, following conventions that limit nitrogen loading in oceans.
“My laboratory researches basic processes and develops technologies for aquaculture,” explains Prof. Golberg. ” In this study, we showed that if seaweed is grown according to the model we developed, in rivers’ estuaries, they can absorb the nitrogen to conform to environmental standards and prevent its dispersal in water and thus neutralize environmental pollution.”
“Our model allows marine farmers, as well as government and environmental bodies, to know, in advance, what the impact will be and what the products of a large seaweed farm will be – before setting up the actual farm,” adds Meiron Zollman. “Thanks to mathematics, we know how to make the adjustments also concerning large agricultural farms and maximize environmental benefits, including producing the agriculturally desired protein quantities.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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