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Ecological engineering of artificial oyster reefs to enhance carbon sequestration via the algae-oyster complex

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2011 Louisville, Kentucky, August 7-10, 2011  1110859.(doi:10.13031/2013.37340)
Authors:   Steven G Hall, Jon D Risinger, Allyson -- Lutz, Jake Farlow
Keywords:   Ecosystem services, algae, carbon sequestration, oysters, ocean acidification

Ecological engineering of bioengineered reef systems has been shown useful in reducing or reversing erosion in shallow estuarine systems, reducing wave energy, producing food, enhancing habitat, and, coupled with natural solar energy gatherers such as algae, sequestering carbon in a sustainable fashion. Use of biological organism complexes such as algae and oysters to sequester carbon can provide a sustainable solar based solution for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to mitigate the risks of climate change. On a carbon per time per surface area basis, these reefs can be orders of magnitude more effective than grass based systems and significantly more effective than some tree based systems. Concerns over ocean acidification also suggest removal of carbon from the ocean. However, oysters alone are animals which are net producers of carbon dioxide, whereas oysters coupled with algae can be net long term carbon sequesterers, therefore the net carbon sequestration potential of the Eastern Oyster Crassostrea virginica with algae species. A system was designed to assess growth of both algae and oysters in a completely closed system. Relevant parameters include CO2 and O2 in air and water; shell carbon sequestration, wet and dry biomass, net algae concentrations, and pH. Results include quantification of carbon sequestered in various normalized formats and suggest the algae-oyster complex provides significant long term sustainable carbon sequestration potential. Recent moderate sized projects (meters to kilometers; kiloton size basis) are being monitored to assess results on a larger scale and larger projects (multikilometer, megaton mass basis) are proposed. A brief review of these projects shows the potential for scaleability of such ecological engineering techniques.

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