“The University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory’s (MBL) Associate Scientist Loretta Roberson has received new funding to explore how seaweed can protect shellfish farming from the negative impact of an increasingly acidic ocean.

Roberson and her collaborator, Two Docks Shellfish LLC, will grow tropical seaweed alongside hard clams in Tampa Bay, Florida, to see if the seaweed can boost the clams’ productivity while reducing the effects of ocean acidification.

Marc Scott of Two Docks Shellfish and Gracilaria to be outplanted. Credit L. Roberson

Oceans are rapidly absorbing carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, resulting in acidification that negatively affects marine ecosystems. Shellfish are particularly vulnerable, as acidification causes their calcium carbonate shells to dissolve.

Macroalgae (seaweed) can enhance alkalinity through active photosynthesis and may therefore mitigate the impacts of acidification on shellfish aquaculture.

The team will test cultivation of several species, including two endemic ones:  the sunray venus clam (Macrocallista nimbosa) and the macroalgae Eucheuma isiforme, a genus that is economically valuable in Asia and parts of Africa for producing carrageenan but is currently underutilized in the United States; the commercially important hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria, and species of the seaweed Gracilaria.

Loretta Roberson at MBL dock Credit Megan Costello

Roberson has assembled an expert industry/academic coalition that is uniquely suited to this work. Her laboratory at the MBL is focused on cultivation of tropical seaweeds and currently operates seaweed farms offshore of Tampa Bay and in Puerto Rico funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Two Docks Shellfish is a small business that has been farming shellfish in Tampa Bay since 2018. Partners from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University have developed hatchery systems for the sunray venus clam, which are of growing market interest. Florida Sea Grant is providing support for technology transfer and outreach for potential seaweed farmers.” – from the MBL website

For more information and to view the complete article, visit HERE

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