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A comparative environmental life cycle assessment of hatchery, cultivation, and preservation of the kelp Saccharina latissima

Seaweed cultivation and processing industries could contribute to sustainable blue growth and the European bioeconomy. This article contributes a case study evaluation of environmental sustainability of preserved brown seaweed Saccharina latissima by means of environmental life cycle assessment of a pilot facility in Sweden. The study accounts for nutrient bioremediation and carbon capture and includes two alternative hatchery processes, a 2-ha longline cultivation, and four alternative preservation methods (hang-drying outdoors, heated air-cabinet drying, ensiling, and freezing). The study found that as a result of carbon capture and nitrogen and phosphorus uptake (bioremediation) by seaweed, more CO2 and PO4 equivalents are (temporarily) absorbed than emitted by the supply chain. The extent of emissions is most affected by preservation methods undertaken. Impact profiles of the supply chain show that the greatest impact shares result from freezing and air-cabinet drying, both the two most energy-intensive processes, followed by the cultivation infrastructure, highlighting strategic optimization opportunities. Hatchery processes, harvesting, and the low-energy ensilage and hang-drying outdoors were found to have relatively small impact shares. These findings presage the environmentally friendliness of seaweed-based products by documenting their potential to mitigate eutrophication and climate change, even when taking a life cycle perspective.

ICES Journal of Marine Science