NBFN’s Top Ten Trends Article Launched at Oslo Seminar

| February 3rd, 2023 | Highlights


Audience participating in the seminar Q&A session 

On February 1st, NBFN held a breakfast seminar in Oslo to launch the network’s latest article, Top Ten Blue Forests Trends of 2022. The room was filled with stakeholders from both public and private sectors, reflecting the cross-cutting nature of managing and conserving blue forests. Moderated by Torill Sæterøy, Head of Programme for the Marine Environment programme of GRID-Arendal, the seminar presented the trends below, as well as five key areas to watch in 2023 and beyond.

TOP ten trends of 2022:

  1. Beyond blue carbon: Increased acknowledgment of the wider ecosystem services blue forests provide
  2. Blue carbon financing is on the rise, despite an opaque carbon market
  3.  Is kelp a ‘silver bullet’ for climate change? The debate continues
  4. The creation of better maps and models – both from the field and from afar
  5. Efforts to restore blue forests surge
  6. The importance of ecosystem-based management is increasingly acknowledged yet understudied
  7. Microbiomes essential for health and functioning of blue forests
  8. Mapping genes in kelp forests can help future-proof species for climate and industry
  9. The European seaweed industry is growing, but not yet soaring
  10. Seaweed will likely be defined as seafood in Norway

Peter Haugan (IMR) presenting on the need for better standards within the Voluntary Carbon Market for blue carbon

Peter Haugan, Project Director at the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), kicked off the presentations, starting with blue carbon. While interest in blue carbon continues to rise internationally and within Norway, 2022 saw an increased focus on ecosystem services beyond just carbon. Food security was specifiially mentioned as a relevant ecosystem service for meeting the demands of a growing global population with sustainable food sources. While kelp can be harvested and consumed as a food source directly, blue forests have a significant role for fisheries provision as well. The conversation then circled back to blue carbon by highlighting the immense growth of the voluntary carbon market in the past two years. While demand for blue carbon offsets is high, it can be difficult to discern the quality of blue carbon offsets in this opaque market. Mr. Haugan closed by emphasizing that high-integrity blue carbon offsets should consider community rights and benefit sharing, account for leakage, and ideally encompass the value of other associated ecosystem services.

Next, Hege Gundersen of the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) presented the latest trends within mapping, monitoring, and the restoration of coastal ecosystems within Norway and the European Union. The sheer length of the Norwegian coastline presents a unique challenge for thorough monitoring domestically, but projects like SeaBee are using innovative methods like drone data and machine learning algorithms to automate the data analysis process and support the monitoring of coastal ecosystems, marine mammals, seabirds, and surface waters. Similarly, a new EU project called OBAMA-NEXT uses drone technology and citizen science methods to help map and monitor coastal ecosystems, including blue forests. The topic of restoration was also mentioned, with specific reference made to the Inner-Oslofjord eelgrass restoration project led by Oslo municipality. This pilot project is ongoing, but early results have varied by location and other environmental factors thus far. While seagrass restoration efforts have historically experienced limited success at a high cost, new methods for shoot and seed transplantation may improve the efficiency of seagrass restoration in years to come.

Presentation slide from Hege Gundersen (NIVA) on an eelgrass restoration project in the inner Oslofjord

Stein Fredriksen of the University of Oslo and IMR presented next on the theme of new research frontiers, which highlighted the critical symbiotic relationship between microbiomes and wild kelp, as well as the importance of genetic variation of sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima, along the Norwegian coast. Maintaining genetically diverse kelp populations is advantageous to ensure kelp species are more resilient to the impacts of climate change and other environmental stressors.

The topic of kelp carried into the following presentation by Gunhild Borgersen of NIVA, who provided an overview of the current status of the kelp cultivation industry in Norway and the EU. The industry is growing – but not yet at the rates predicted. However, improvements are being made along the entire value chain, and new opportunities are emerging. In Norway, for example, the government is taking steps towards defining macroalgae as seafood, a change that would allow the industry to be a part of the Norwegian Seafood Council marketing portfolio. Dr. Borgersen concluded by reminding the audience that while the environmental impact of the seaweed industry in Europe is primarily positive, this could change. Europe is in a unique position to ensure a sustainable seaweed industry from the outset. While this market has not yet skyrocketed, forthcoming changes to regulations and standards of seaweed within Norway and the EU may support market growth.

Cultivated algae used in diverse food products and sustainable packaging. Image sources (from left to right) Notpla, Go2’Grill, NRK, Seaweed Energy Solutions AS, Akua, Dagens Næringsliv, and Gemini.no 

To close, NBFN Project Leader Cecilie Wathne called attention to a handful of topics to watch in 2023, which included: the visibility of salt marshes; kelp as a potential sustainable food source; marine spatial planning along the Norwegian coastline; increased interest in protecting blue carbon ecosystems in Norway; and what the inclusion of oceans within the new global biodiversity framework may mean for better marine protection in Norway.

The seminar finished with a lively Q&A session, where researchers, ministry officials, representatives from NGOs, and the private sector discussed the concrete steps that should be taken to better manage blue forests ecosystems in Norway.

To read the entire Top Ten Trends of 2022 article, click here.


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