Partnership awards drive joint efforts with University of Sydney in preserving aquaculture
Prof. Falkenberg works with USyd on ‘Can Seagrass Protect Oyster Aquaculture from Acidifying Oceans?’.
CUHK has long and close collaboration with the University of Sydney (USyd) on various fronts. The USyd-CUHK Partnership Collaboration Awards was launched in 2018 to support joint initiatives that strengthen the two universities’ strategic priorities and develop sustainable research collaborations. One of the awardees, Prof. Laura Falkenberg from the School of Life Sciences, has recently completed a joint project on marine ecosystems with Prof. Pauline Ross from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at USyd. Prof. Falkenberg shared how the team has been benefitted from the scheme despite the pandemic.
‘We are interested in understanding the impact of global change, and how this will influence ocean ecosystems and aquaculture yields. Within this context, oysters are particularly important—17.1 million tonnes of molluscs were produced from aquaculture worldwide in 2016, 31% of which were oysters. Oysters are, however, likely to be negatively affected by the rising carbon dioxide levels and the resulting ocean acidification. These direct negative effects can be countered by the presence of chemistry-modifying seagrasses. Therefore, we want to understand if seagrasses can reduce the effects of elevated carbon dioxide and benefit oyster-centred ecosystems and aquaculture. In addition, the project investigates how managing oysters and seagrasses together can contribute to secure food sources for feeding the growing human population.’
A tank-based experiment measures the benefits of seagrass presence on oysters.
Prof. Falkenberg is grateful for the scheme for bringing members of the two laboratories to work together for the first time. The team conducted two major activities last year even though the pandemic brought changes to the original plan. ‘We have completed a literature review outlining the current state of knowledge about interactions between oysters and seagrasses. Besides, we have conducted a tank-based experiment, simulating future ocean conditions and measuring any benefits of seagrass presence on oysters by housing both seagrasses and oysters together.’
The project will lead to review articles and original research-based scientific publications. Prof. Falkenberg looks forward to presenting the findings at conferences and meeting the team members at USyd in person when the travel restriction is eased.