Is algae better than trees in absorbing CO2?
We are currently facing the global problem of climate change. While governments and Industry are trying hard to reduce emission from industrial processes, we also need to increase the amount of CO2 that is taken out of the atmosphere.
One way to do it is by planting trees. Trees have been with us for millions of years. Unfortunately over the last few decades, large amount of rainforests have been cut down for various reasons. We need to stop this practice and Swinova wants to preserve the unique rainforest here in Nigeria.
Furthermore, there are campaigns to plant trees. Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, say that there is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees. These forests would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon-dioxide emissions.
Trees are great, but they also have some drawbacks. They need a long time to grow. Some will die during the process and release the captured CO2 again.
Planting as many trees as possible as quickly as possible could reduce nine gigatons of carbon a year—but it would also increase food prices by 80% by 2050.
What about Algae?
Algae is a very well-known plant. All of us have seen it in swimming pools that haven’t been cleaned frequently.
Algae is a microorganism with super powers. I can absorb nearly twice it’s weight in CO2. It grows very quickly and it hardly needs anything to grow. Mostly water and CO2 and some nutrients.
Furthermore algae can be used in many different ways once it is harvested:
- Feed for fish or other animals
- Food supplements
- Cosmetic products
- Pharaceutical products
Trees vs Algae for CO2 capture
Trees take a long time and space to grow and absorb large quantities of CO2. Algae, on the contrary is growing fast and can capture twice its weight.
An acre of algae grown in open raceway ponds can capture nearly 40t of CO2 a year compared to an acre mature forest, which can capture 2.6 tons of CO2 yearly. That’s nearly 20 times less than Algae.
Forests and trees are still a very powerful tool in carbon capture. We need to protect our forests. In Nigeria, over the last 12 years we lost rainforest that could have captured 19.8 mega tons of CO2 a year. You know the saying, it’s easier to destroy than build. So we need to protect the forest we still have but maybe focus less on planting trees and more on growing algae.