Sugar kelp is a cold-weather brown algal species of seaweed that grows in the winter and is harvested in spring. It also is being tested this year in three bioextraction projects to investigate if seaweed can be cultivated in Long Island Sound and other regional waters to improve water quality. Sugar kelp is useful as a ‘bioextractor’ in urban waters. Kelp extracts excess nutrients, such as nitrogen, from the water column and stores it in its tissues so there is less nitrogen available for spring algal blooms, which in excess can harm the Sound’s water quality. By harvesting the kelp in the springtime, the nutrients that cause excess algae growth are also removed.
This winter, three projects involving kelp farming that are also nutrient bioextraction pilot projects are taking place in Long Island and Connecticut waters. Two of those pilot projects, with funding provided in part by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, are located in Long Island Sound. The third project is located in Long Island Bays (Great South Bay and Reynold’s Channel) and is being funded in part by the Long Island Community Foundation. Nelle D’Aversa, the Long Island Sound Bioextraction Coordinator, is providing technical expertise. Information on the three projects is available in the bioextraction web pages on the Long Island Sound Study website.
Home page photo: Sixto Portilla, owner of Open Water Enterprises, LLC, seeds long lines with juvenile sugar kelp at part of a nutrient bioextraction pilot study supported by the LISS Bioextraction Coordinator. Portilla is an experienced commercial shellfish grower who is interested in diversifying into seaweed aquaculture.