IFF, Bellona Partner for Seaweed Forest Restoration Project in Norway

Seaweed forest

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Jan 22, 2024

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IFF has partnered with Bellona for a long-term project to restore seaweed forests in northern Norway, which may increase biological carbon sequestration by up to 12 million tons.

IFF will provide financial support and expertise in seaweed management for the project over the course of three years. The project will also include collaboration with the Norwegian government and research communities to create a platform to share scientifically proven invasive species removal options and seaweed forest restoration methods.

As a major industry player in the food and beverage, personal care, and health industries, IFF relies on seaweed forests for a number of its products.

Project to Restore 3,000 Miles of Seaweed Forest, Control Invasive Species

The Norwegian Marine Restoration (NoMaRe) project plans to revitalize over 3,000 square miles of seaweed forest by controlling the surrounding invasive sea urchin population.

Human activity in the region in the 1970s reportedly caused the urchin population to explode after its natural predators’ populations decreased. As a result, sea urchins have taken over the majority of seaweed forests in Norway, causing so-called urchin barrens that have a domino effect on native animals and plants that rely on the crucial ocean ecosystem.

“As one of the largest global users of seaweed for alginates and carrageenan, we are proud to be an initiator of this major project,” said Renee Henze, chief sustainability officer for IFF. “Alginate from Norwegian seaweed is used in pharmaceutical applications, dietary supplements, and food, including new plant-based meat alternatives. Increasing advocacy for the often-forgotten seaweed forest is key to mitigating the effects of climate change, while creating sustainable jobs and products globally.”

Seaweed Forests Decline Globally, Required for Wide-Ranging Industry Uses

Seaweed forests have supported many industries throughout the last century and have been used for products ranging from gunpowder to toothpaste.

Commercial kelp harvesting, however, has contributed to a significant decline in seaweed populations around the world. Seaweed forests have been further damaged by warming seas, industrial disposal, and severe storms, among other climate change-related hazards. The north coast of California, once known as a kelp stronghold, has reportedly lost 96% of its seaweed forests in the past 10 years.

Restoring seaweed forests worldwide may help support marine life while allowing for continued use of kelp for its many applications in medicine, food, and more. The IFF and Bellona project may allow sustainable seaweed harvesting to bring various economic benefits to the marine economy in Norway as well.

“In Norway, we have sustainably harvested seaweed for over 60 years, so we know how to maintain the forest,” said Angela Strzelecki, president of pharma solutions at IFF. “The habitats where we harvest thrive, and we hope the seaweed forest further north can do the same. NoMaRe shows that great things happen when businesses, NGOs, research communities and governments combine their forces, expertise, and experience to help save the planet and create green jobs.”

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