Kelps are large brown seaweeds that form vast underwater ‘rainforests’, referred to as kelp forests. Due to the high productivity of the kelps and the complex, three-dimensional habitats they create, kelp forest are one of the most diverse and productive marine habitats on Earth. These habitats are also important on a larger scale as they protect coastal areas from storms and sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon.
Our team, at Ghent University wants to boost restoration efforts for golden kelp by supplementing juvenile kelps with probiotics. By providing the right bacteria, we hope that the young kelps will grow faster and be more resilient to heatwaves and ocean acidification.
The main challenge will be to obtain the right bacteria, as virtually nothing is known on the relation between bacteria and L. ochroleuca. The most likely habitat for beneficial bacteria to be, is on the kelp itself. So that is where we started our search. Thanks to our partners at CCMAR (University of Algarve), we were able to visit the Piscicultura Vale de Lama (Aqualvor) where L. ochroleuca is being cultivated at large scales. Back in Belgium, bacteria were isolated from the kelp pieces collected in Portugal, resulting in 14 bacterial cultures. Many more kelps samples will be collected by us and our partners across the complete range of L. ochroleuca in the coming months. The bacteria isolated from these samples, together with the 14 bacterial isolates we already have, will then be used in lab experiments where we will grow them together with different L. ochroleuca strains to test their effect on the growth of the seaweed. More on that soon.
Written by Willem Stock & Olivier De Clerck