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How SeaForester is reforesting our oceans

SeaForester’s simple new technology could bring a valuable carbon sink back from the brink.

When we talk deforestation, it’s normally about trees and animals on dry land. But it’s a problem that goes much further – all the way into the deep blue sea.

Each year we lose three million hectares of marine vegetation. Over the past fifty years the world’s kelp forests have declined by 50%. This is in part due to ocean warming, pollution, overgrazing, and coastal development.

This is a big issue because 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are captured and stored by seaweed every year – about as much as the annual emissions of the entire state of New York. Kelp forests also host incredible biodiversity, and are breeding and feeding grounds for many marine species.

If we want to preserve (and grow!) this valuable ecosystem and carbon sink, a hands-on approach is needed.

This is where SeaForester comes in. This Portugal-based company is pioneering a simple way to reforest our oceans. First, they seed stones with seaweed spores. Next, the seaweed is given some time to grow on land in a special ‘nursery.’

Finally, they literally toss them in the ocean. The stones are scattered in shallow, coastal waters, where the sun will reach them, and the rest takes care of itself.

This method is revolutionary, as it’s much simpler and cheaper than traditional seaweed restoration techniques, which rely on scuba diving and complicated training.

By cutting down the time and finances needed, larger areas of underwater forests can be restored quickly.

The method is partly informed by seaweed farming technology – likely because SeaForester’s founder, Pål Bakken, is the son of a seaweed farmer. As a result, the ‘green gravel’ can be produced at big commercial scales, using infrastructure that already exists for seaweed farming.

SeaForester’s technology has mostly been used in Portugal, with projects in Norway and Sweden as well.

However, it is easy to adapt for use worldwide, and the company plans to expand to more countries. In addition, SeaForester engages coastal communities in its work, making sure they have the tools and support to both restore and manage the baby kelp forests.

Recent efforts in Portugal even got local surfers involved to help distribute the stones.

Although tree planting projects like Ecosia are doing some great work on dry land, it would be great if ocean reforestation got a little more love.

After all, seaweed forests capture carbon at least five times more efficiently than tropical rainforests! As a habitat they can also help restore fish stocks, half of which are overfished and ten percent of which are on the point of collapse.

Seaweed also naturally cleans seawater, and helps reverse the effects of ocean acidification, meaning coral and other marine organisms benefit as well. Lastly, by lessening the impact of waves, kelp forests protect coasts from flooding and erosion – which is great news for us on land too.

To find out more, or to get involved, visit SeaForester here.