Carbon dioxide (CO2) is often the focus of climate change mitigation efforts, although methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas, having around 28 times more warming potential than CO2. Reducing methane production has become a focal point for governments looking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is a leading source of human-caused methane emissions, with a significant percentage produced by cattle.
There has been a growing body of research exploring alternative livestock feeds for the purpose of reducing the amount of methane released by cattle. Of these, supplementation of around one to two percent of a cow’s diet with the red alga Asparagopsis taxiformis has been the most successful, reducing methane output by up to 90%.
While Asparagopsis has a near-global coastal distribution, this project will focus on lineages of the alga that grow in California. Researchers will conduct growth experiments on strains of Asparagopsis collected from different regions around Southern California. The purpose of these experiments is to understand how variables such as temperature, nutrient concentration, light intensity, and CO2 concentration affect the growth and health of the algae. The project will seek to find conditions which optimize Asparagopsis growth and the production of bromoform - the chemical responsible for reducing methane in cows.
The primary goal of this project is to determine the conditions and methodology needed for commercial-scale aquaculture of Asparagopsis. The results will both lead to an increased availability of biomass to further the trials on the safety and long-term effects of consumption by cows and improve the sustainability and efficiency of the dairy and beef industries.