Microalgae can remove CO2 from the atmosphere by producing oxygen. (Photo: Icman-CSIC/Stock File)
Microalgae set to help tackle climate change
Monday, January 10, 2011, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
A group of researchers from the Institute of Marine Sciences of Andalusia (ICMAN-CSIC) is studying the possibility of converting microalgae into a tool to address climate change, due to its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
The ICMAN has more than 300 strains of microalgae, both native and foreign, which is Spain's largest collection of these organisms, reports the EFE news agency.
In Europe, located in front of Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Czech Republic have a larger size of microalgae samples, said Luis Lubián, one of the researchers at ICMAN.
Maria del Carmen Sarasquete, director of the institute, located on the campus of Puerto Real, said that they are also studying other possible uses for microalgae, such as for aquaculture and the pharmaceutical industry.
In terms of climate change, microalgae may play a fundamental role in the fight because they act as a buffer for atmospheric CO2 buildup.
They are treated as isolated microorganisms of phytoplankton (first link in the food chain), which are kept in culture centers and used for studies in laboratory or biotechnological applications which are useful to man.
These microorganisms, like any other photosynthetic body, can remove CO2 from the atmosphere by producing oxygen, which brings great benefits to both environmental protection and the study of new forms of energy like biodiesel.
The researcher Ana García from ICMAN, performed a doctoral thesis on the application of microalgae to climate change. Her research is based on a photobioreactor to create the largest possible biomass from algae of various strains in different lighting conditions to incorporate the maximum amount of CO2.
The advantage of algae is its great capacity of biomass generation, which is not the case with terrestrial plants, which can take many years to grow.
Only in one week, the microalgae grown in the laboratory can support species located in the second step of the food chain, zooplankton.
In this regard, laboratory culturing of phytoplankton and zooplankton support also opens up important avenues of research in aquaculture, as a possible solution to the problem of overfishing in the world.
Therefore, the director of the ICMAN said her institute is "a global pioneer in artificial breeding and fish farming, which is developed in experimental facilities to simulate ocean conditions.
ICMAN scientists explained they are able to recreate the lighting conditions that influence the reproduction of sea bream (Sparus aurata) that proliferates in the winter, thanks to its technology, they can produce copies of this fish throughout the year.
According to Sarasquete, in recent years in Spain, the amount of sea bream grown using aquaculture techniques has doubled, rising from 12,000 tonnes in 2003 to 25,000 tonnes in 2009.
The specialist added that it is estimated that currently between 60 and 70 per cent of fish consumed comes from aquaculture, hence the importance of this research.
Scientists also achieved artificial reproduction of sole, "but it is not known how to control the process throughout the year," where the limiting factor for reproduction is also the temperature.
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By Silvina Corniola