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

Seaweed life cycle

Seaweed is a plant, but does not reproduce like most plants do on land, with flowers and pollen. Seaweed is more like a fern that reproduces by means of spores. Alexander Ebbing studies how these spores (gametophytes) can be controlled using various (a)biotic factors, further domesticating the species. Full domestication of this crop can only be achieved with a greater understanding of these (a)biotic lifecycle controls. This understanding is necessary in aiding future seaweed farmers that have the ambition to cultivate kelp in sea, by giving them the tools to work with kelp as their renewable crop of choice.

There is still a lot to learn about the seaweed life cycle. Figure:

Understanding the life cycle

Although the interest is growing in kelp-aquaculture, there is still a lot to learn about their life cycle. For example, the haploid gametophyte phase of the kelp’s haploid-diploid life cycle is very much understudied. These gametophytes are haploid and can vegetatively reproduce through fragmentation. This phase is also the part of a kelp’s life cycle where sexual reproduction between male and female gametophytes occurs. Needless to say, this understudied gametophyte phase is crucial to comprehend in order to ultimately control the entire life cycle of kelps.

The purpose is to further our understanding in the life cycle controls of these kelps. In-depth studies are hereby made possible through the usage of gametophyte cultures of the species Saccharina latissima and Alaria esculenta. Varying the external growing factors like light, nutrients, and temperature can give us a better understanding into the triggers responsible for the lifecycle transitions within kelps.