SEASEEDS: Ecological impact of seaweed cultivation and its associated microbiota

Large-scale seaweed cultivations will be implemented in the North Sea. This will inevitably lead to increased detachment of seaweed from the cultivation ropes and thus, increased seaweed biomass in the surrounding environment. We study ecological impacts of detached sugar kelp and its associated microbiota.


While seaweed cultivation for food, feed stock and cosmetics is well established in the Eastern part of the world, the European sector is still developing. A major economic and ecological challenge is the detachment from the cultivation rope causing up to 90 % loss of early-stage seaweeds and post-harvest remains in nature.

Aim and approach

The SEASEEDS project aims to study constraints limiting the progression of large-scale seaweed cultivation in the Dutch North Sea by improving the sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) attachment.

Therein, the Work package 4 project examines the ecological impact of seaweed cultivation and its associated microbiota in the North Sea. In that regard, foci are laid on detached 1) early-stage (seeding material) and 2) late-stage sugar kelp (harvest material); 3) potentially resulting micro- and macro-ecological community shifts; and 4) applying the scientific insights in combination with ecosystemic modelling for policy making advice.

Consortium partners of the SEASEEDS project include Laboratory of Cell Biology - WUR, Wageningen Marine Research - WUR, Laboratory of Plant Breeding - WUR, Wageningen Economic Research - WUR, Hortimare B.V. Breeding & Propagating Seaweed, Rope manufacturer Langman, North Sea Farmers, Deltares, GiMaRIS, Brandfriend, Jumbo Supermarkten, ReShore - WUR

Further collaborators are e. g., The Seaweed Company dr. R (Reindert) Nijland - WUR; Prof. dr. O. De Clerck (, Dr. Thomas Wichard (

Primary funded by NWO

BSc or MSC thesis project ideas

Thesis projects are available for BSc or MSc students with interest in seaweed cultivation, microbial assessment and ecosystemic model validation. Theses work will include marine environmental field as well as laboratory work and computer analyses.

  • Method testing to assess fungal diversity associated with sugar kelp using molecular ecological skills (18S rRNA gene sequencing)
  • Near- and off-shore seaweed cultivation monitoring focusing on…

    • detached sugar kelp development (early- and late-stages)
    • its associated microbiota alteration (16S and/ or 18S gene sequencing)
    • the impact on the surrounding marine biodiversity (environmental DNA)
  • Ecosystemic model validation using MolEco data gained (from late 2024 onwards)

Open for your suggestions within the described SEASEEDS WP4 project framework. Note that any start date is flexible.

Are you interested in joining us?

Please, do not hesitate to contact me via the contact form. We look forward to hear from you!