Seaweed as climate mitigation solution: Categorizing and reflecting on four climate mitigation pathways

Sander W.K. van den Burg*, Sophie J.I. Koch, Marnix Poelman, Jeroen Veraart, Trond Selnes, Edwin M. Foekema, Romy Lansbergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Global concerns about climate change were once again expressed at the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Seaweed is frequently presented as a solution for climate mitigation. For a proper appraisal of its contribution to mitigating climate change, it is necessary to distinguish between, and critically scrutinize, the various pathways seaweed-based climate mitigations can take. This article identifies four different climate mitigation pathways and critically reflects on each. First, carbon sequestration, occurring when grown seaweed is left in the seas or, second, purposefully sunk. Third, carbon emission reduction, resulting when seaweed-based products replace products with a higher carbon footprint, either fossil based products or other organic material. Fourth, carbon emission avoidance, taking place when seaweed products are used to avoid greenhouse gas emissions in other production processes. Each of these pathways requires specific methods to quantify their magnitude and comes with critical questions to ask. The sequestration pathway requires monitoring of net carbon production and the amount of carbon that is eventually exported to the deep sea. Pathways 3 and 4 require Life Cycle Assessment and/or Carbon Footprint with system boundaries set to include the production system itself and installation thereof. We propose an unequivocal categorization in a belief that confusion on the benefits of seaweed will eventually impede development of seaweed-based solutions. This article is categorized under: The Carbon Economy and Climate Mitigation > Benefits of Mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere868
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2023


  • blue carbon
  • carbon footprint
  • carbon sequestration
  • climate
  • LCA
  • mitigation
  • seaweed
  • trade-offs


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