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Planet Care

241: Marine Permaculture Arrays

Problem:

As in much of the world, a lot of kelp and seaweed growing off the coast of Tasmania has died due to the rising sea temperatures. The University of Tasmania reports that roughly 95% of the kelp forests around Tasmania have been lost over the past few years. This has led to the Australian Government listing them as an endangered marine community, the first of its kind in Australia.

Solution:

In 2008, working with two preeminent plankton experts, to manually restore overturning circulation in areas where it has stopped, Brian von Herzen demonstrated the use of wave-driven pumps to up-well rich nutrients and grow plankton in a portion of the Pacific Ocean 60 mi (100 km) north of Hawaii.

In just 57 hours after deployment, the system sparked plankton growth. Shortly thereafter, these blooms attracted various species of fish. Two weeks later, a 17-ft (5 m.) whale shark was still circling the area feeding on plankton that had started to bloom.

Herzen, who has set up The Climate Foundation, calls his floating platform system a Marine Permaculture Array (MPA) with its ability to create ocean forests of kelp and seaweed and to provide habitat for diverse fauna including invertebrates, forage and game fish and birds.

Climate Foundation was chosen out of a field of 220 organizations by Australia’s Dept of Foreign Affairs and the Blue Economy Challenge to deploy a Marine Permaculture Array in the Indian Ocean to validate the technical benefits. In this phase, they demonstrated the biological response of commercially relevant macroalgae to deep water upwelled to the surface.

By October 2019, the first of CF’s lab-bred giant kelp had been outplanted into the field, onto experimental arrays and aquaculture infrastructure in Storm Bay, Tasmania. The outplanting of these twines, seeded with microscopic juvenile giant kelp, was the first step in Herzen’s research looking at cultivation of warm-tolerant giant kelp and restorative kelp aquaculture.

This could then be scaled up to self-guided 250-ac (100 ha) Marine Permaculture Arrays offshore. The kelp could be harvested to be used as biofuel, fertilizer, livestock feed, superfood and countless biomass applications and high-value extract. After high-value extraction at sea in the harvester bio-refinery, the kelp could be sunk to deep anoxic environments, locking 90% of the sequestered carbon away for millennia.

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