Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

Blue growth & sustainability

Providing the ever-increasing human population with sustainable food and energy is an enormous challenge. Agricultural lands are over-exploited, freshwater is becoming scarce, the energy transition asks for alternatives to fossil fuels. Not surprising, humanity is turning to the oceans and seas for future food and energy. At EDS we investigate the role of marine plant biomass in the transition to a bio-based, circular economy that is in harmony with the marine environment. Most notably, we study the physiology and ecology of seaweeds and marine micro-algae.

Sugarweed, Saccharina latissima, in the NIOZ nursery tanks. Photo: Klaas Timmermans

Environmental controls of life cycles of kelps and seagrasses
The research aims to unravel the effects of light, temperature, nutrient availability and hydrodynamic forces on the sexual reproduction of native North Sea and Dutch Delta brown seaweeds, as well as seagrasses.

Cellular composition of seaweeds and micro-algae
The composition in terms of proteins and carbohydrates of seaweeds and micro-algae is largely influenced by the abiotic conditions during their growth. This is investigated under fully controlled conditions. We also study biorefinery of the biomass: that is the efficient extraction of proteins and carbohydrates from seaweeds and marine micro-algae.

Optimising seaweed and micro-algal production
On-land cultivation of seaweed and micro-algal (biologically certified) biomass is studied under mesoscale conditions in cooperation with companies.

Combining flood defense with seaweed production.
Mankind is confronted with climate change and the necessity of a food- and energy-transition. In low-lying delta’s, we explore the possibilities of combining new forms of coastal flood defense (Building with Nature to face sea level change) with sustainable production of food and energy (Blue Growth).

Life cycles of kelps
The research aims to unravel the effects of environmental variables such as light, temperature, nutrient availability on the sexual reproduction of native North Sea and Dutch Delta brown seaweeds.
 
Projects: Environmental controls of lifecycles of brown seaweeds
Biofunctional compounds in micro-algae and seaweeds.
Micro-algae and seaweeds contain many biofunctional compounds, e.g. proteins, carbohydrates, enzymes and pigments. The composition and concentration of these compounds is largely influenced by the abiotic conditions. This is investigated under fully controlled conditions.
 
Projects:
RAAK-PRO project ZEEVIVO 2015-2019: the consortium consists of van Hall Larenstein (University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden), NIOZ (Timmermans as lead researcher of the project), Wageningen Marine Research, Danvos/Huiberts and Hortimare. In this project the possibilities and applications of protein extracted from seaweeds as alternatives for soy and fishmeal are investigated for addition to fish feed.
Port4Innovation (2016-2020, EFRO): in this project EDS-NIOZ performs experimental research on the possibilities of cultivation, in land-based tanks, of biologically certified seaweeds.
PHYCOMORPH (2015-2019): As member of the management committee of EU-COST action FA1406, “Advancing knowledge on seaweed growth and development”, Timmermans is actively involved in the seaweed research agenda in Europe.
L.INT project Bioactive compounds from Marine Organisms (2019-2021): a joint project between University of Applied Sciences Vlissingen and EDS-NIOZ on seaweed components such as proteins, carbohydrates, sterols.
 
Optimising seaweed and micro-algal production
Interreg VALGORIZE (2019-2022): Timmermans is leader of the WP? investigating taste, texture, colour and flavour of seaweeds in relation to biochemical composition (proteins, carbohydrates, etc.) and abiotic cultivation conditions.

Modelling the carrying capacity of seaweeds in the Oosterschelde
In the framework of the project GENIALG (a cooperation with WMR), a model of the growth of Saccharrina latissima is developed. This will be implemented in the EDS coupled hydrodynamic-ecological model of the Oosterschelde, and used to estimate the impact of macroalgae farms on the nutrient and phytoplankton dynamics, and the activity of filter feeders. The model will also be used to determine the optimal positioning of seaweed cultures in the Oosterschelde, and to provide an estimate on the limits for the carrying capacity.