Massive growth of macroalgae or cyanobacteria caused by human activity is the first sign that a water body is deteriorating. Algae form spatially large mats that can choke water bodies, clog pipes, and block light from reaching aquatic plants, leading to the loss of ecosystem balance and biodiversity. Decaying algae mats use up all available oxygen in water, promote secondary contamination and cause an offensive smell, if washed ashore. Harmful cyanobacteria blooms pose an even more significant threat to water quality and peoples livelihoods (fishing, tourism, shipping etc.). Cyanobacteria produce toxins that can cause skin irritation, seriously harm the human liver, digestive and nervous systems and potentially be fatal.
If harvested, such material could be used to make biofuel, bioplastics, fertilisers and other useful things. However, currently commercially available mechanical harvesters are not effective at collecting algae biomass agglomerations (mats and scums).
AlgaeService for LIFE will test two prototype algae and cyanobacteria harvesting machines in real-world conditions on rivers, lakes and the Curonian Lagoon. The collected material will be used to produce biogas, fertilisers and other products on a small-scale. The project will write a business plan for commercial development.
The proposed harvesting of proliferating cyanobacteria and macroalgae species will help to halt the loss of biodiversity and restore degraded aquatic ecosystems, thus contributing to the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. This circular economy project will address integrated management of nutrients and organic pollution caused by agriculture, and suggest measures needed at river basin or catchment scale to achieve the goals of the Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Nitrates, Bathing Waters and Drinking Water Directives. AlgaeService for LIFE will also reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, thereby contributing to the implementation of international commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.