Local algae can be alternative to palm oil, finds research
The study provides insight into the adaptations that these algae have made for it to succeed in this region.
Abu Dhabi - The researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) in collaboration with other groups have discovered that the unique genomic traits that allow the local green algae to survive in a desert climate
Published: Mon 21 Aug 2017, 10:05 PM
Last updated: Tue 22 Aug 2017, 12:09 AM
In a breakthrough development, a team of researchers have found that a local algae, which grow in fresh water as well as water with twice the salinity of seawater, that can be used as an alternative for palm oil.
The researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) in collaboration with other groups have discovered that the unique genomic traits that allow the local green algae to survive in a desert climate may have far-reaching potential for biotechnical applications.
"The algae belongs to the chloroidium genus, which we repeatedly isolated from various locations in the UAE," said Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, associate professor of biology at NYUAD.
"We believe this algae may provide an environmentally sound alternative to the cultivation of oil palm once it is further developed, and can be of both commercial and environmental benefits.
"It has demonstrated particularly diverse properties to suit its surrounding climate in addition to being able to grow both like plants and fungi or animal cells," he added.
The study provides insight into the adaptations that these algae have made for it to succeed in this region, making it an ideal candidate for environmental developments.
"Among these unique attributes are an ability to consume a broad range of carbon sources, including desiccation tolerance-promoting sugars and the accumulation of unusually large stores of palmitate. The high concentration of palmitic acid promotes a similar composition of chloroidium oil to that of palm oil," said David Nelson, NYUAD research scientist and lead author of the study, which is now published in eLife.
"Being a high-value oil with a global production of up to 60 million metric tonnes per year, oil palm cultivation has previously been associated with deforestation and the devastation of rainforests throughout Asia, raising significant environmental concerns as many European markets are now banning the use of palm oil in their products," Salehi-Ashtiani added.
The study has revealed how successfully a green algae inhabits in the harsh environment of the UAE's desert coastline, making it as a lucrative subject for further study.