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Bioextraction potential of seaweed in Denmark – an instrument for circular nutrient management

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The aim of the study is to assess the efficacy of seaweed for circular nutrient management to reduce eutrophication levels in the aquatic environment. We performed a comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of two reference waste management systems treating seaweed as biowaste, i.e. landfill disposal and combustion, and an alternative scenario using the seaweed Saccharina latissima as a resource for biobased fertilizer production. Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) methods were improved by using a cradle-to-cradle approach, quantifying fate factors for nitrogen and phosphorus loss from fertilized agriculture to the aquatic environment. We also differentiated between nitrogen- and phosphorus-limited marine water to improve the traditional freshwater impact category, making this indicator suitable for decision support in relation to coastal water management schemes. Offshore cultivation of Saccharina latissima with an average productivity of 150 Mg/km2 in Danish waters in 2014 was applied to a cultivation scenario of 208 km2. The bioresource scenario performs better than conventional biowaste management systems, delivering a net reduction in aquatic eutrophication levels of 32.29 kg N eq. and 16.58 kg PO43 − eq. per Mg (dry weight) of seaweed, quantified by the ReCiPe and CML impact assessment methods, respectively. Seaweed cultivation, harvest and reuse of excess nutrients from the aquatic environment is a promising approach for sustainable resource cycling in a future regenerative economy that exploits manmade emissions as a resource for closed loop biobased production while significantly reducing eutrophication levels in 3 out of 7 Danish river basin districts. We obtained at least 10% bioextraction of phosphorus manmade emissions (10%, 89% and > 100%) and contributed significantly to local nitrogen reduction goals according to the Water Framework Directive (23%, 78% and > 100% of the target).
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume563-564
Pages (from-to)513-529
Number of pages17
ISSN0048-9697
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016

    Research areas

  • LCA, seaweed cultivation, eutrophication, circular nutrient management, ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

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