Seaweed farming is believed to be a possible solution to the increasing need for food and energy in the world, and Norway possess favourable natural conditions for that purpose, as long as technological expertise. The same environmental conditions have lead Norway to be one of the largest exporters of farmed fish globally; and the need to follow Blue Growth initiatives has positioned Norway as one of the leading countries focused in bio-economy and sustainable management of wild seaweed resources that are harvested for industrial purposes (e.g. IMTA, or Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture). Therefore, ViralICE will provide comprehensive support for the industry (e.g. pathogen discovery, resistance mechanisms and harvesting advice) that will enhance the growth of a sustainable and future oriented industry, based on the production of low trophic-level species like kelp. This, in turn, will help that national aquaculture production will be recognized by the population. Likewise, the regulatory authorities (e.g. Government and policymakers) will get support for a high and predictable biomass production and proper ecosystem management, under future changing climate conditions, promoting a knowledge-based aquaculture industry governance.
ViralICE will increase the knowledge about the diversity, biology and ecology of the smallest key players in the oceans - viruses. There is evidence of the role of viruses structuring ecological communities and impacting ecosystem functioning; therefore, understanding viral-host interactions will increase the insight on co-evolutionary processes, the role of parasites in food webs, competitive interactions, biodiversity patterns, and the regulation of keystone species. Such knowledge is necessary for the proper management of natural resources under changing climatic conditions, being relevant for the seaweed aquaculture and regulatory authorities in Norway.
The network that will be built by this project will create closer links between national and international researchers, allowing a fluent knowledge exchange and future cooperation. Science exchange is fundamental for progress and will contribute to sustainable development in society. ViralICE will increase public awareness about the presence of viruses in the environment and their fundamental ecological roles. The importance of kelp forest will be also highlighted, and a better understanding of the high diversity these communities harbour, will enhance a better preservation of our oceans, specially the Norwegian coast.
Finally, the mentioned project outputs will potentially address the UN sustainable development goal number 14 (Life below water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources); notably, targets 14.2, 12.4 and 14.A, which intend to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, regulate harvesting and implement science-based management plans. As long as goal number 2 (Zero hunger), sub goal 2.4, which focuses on sustainable food production systems that help maintain ecosystems, strengthening the adaptation capacity to climate change.