Sea weed invasion - threatened marine life - Seeker's Thoughts

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Sea weed invasion - threatened marine life


Seaweeds were described as simple plants that grew in the sea. Seaweeds play an important role in marine ecosystem/ as the first organism in marine food chains, they provide nutrients and energy for animals – either directly when fronds are eaten, or indirectly when decomposing parts break down into fine particles and are taken up by filter-feeding animals. 

                                                                        seaweed


Beds of seaweed provide shelter and habitat for scores of coastal animals for all or part of their lives. 
They are important nurseries for many commercial species as the rock lobster, paua (abalone) and green-lipped mussel.

They are simple in structure, usually consisting of a holdfast that anchors to a surface, and a blade which may be divided into fronds. Some of the larger seaweed have a flexible stalk or stripe connecting the blade to the holdfast.

 Unlike plants, seaweeds do not have roots or internal tissues to conduct water. They absorb mineral and gases directly from seawater through the surface of their blades.

Seaweed groups
Seaweed can be grouped into three types, based on color green, red or blown. They all contain the light-absorbing pigment chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. Brown and red seaweeds have additional pigments that enable them to photosynthesize at the depth where little light penetrates. 

These extra pigments mask the green color of chlorophyll. Brown seaweeds can be yellow-brown to dark olive. Red seaweeds have the greatest range of tone- pink to purple, red and brown to nearly black.

Why and how seaweed is getting invaded?

In 2018 Thousands of tons of prolific seaweed called “sargassum” invaded the pristine beaches of the Caribbean. In Mexico, the turquoise waters and clear, smooth sand of the touristy Mayan Riviera turned into a brown mess.

The sight of sargassum – a type of brown algae—and its smell scared tourists away, and local ecosystem started to suffer greatly.

The country’s navy to lead the beach-cleaning effort and to prevent the sargassum from reaching the coast. In June, the situation was so bad that the southeastern state of Quintana Roo – home of the tourist destination of Cancun – declared a state of emergency.


Sargassum invasion could damage the coral reefs in the Mexican Caribbean

According to the researcher – Rosa Rodriguez Martinez, Sargassum repeatedly arrived in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 on the beaches. It has been impacting water quality, because of dying the areas near the beach right after that corals began to die massively because of diseases.

A whole giant belt of sargassum has already formed in the Atlantic that goes from Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. 

They also did the nutrient analysis, confirming that the Amazon River discharge is influencing the seaweed’s growth, as well as the upwelling [cold and nutrient-rich water rising from deeper parts of the ocean to the surface] that occurs on the east coast of Africa. Climate change and eutrophication surely have something to do with it.

                             

Does the climate change impact of this invasive species in local species?

The impact is very serious. Sargassum arrives at the beach, dies and forms what we call the “brown ride.” Which is basically decomposing organic matter stirred in the water. 

This tide then reduced the amount of light that reaches the seagrasses and creates a condition of low oxygen as well as an increase in ammonium and sulfates.
Since 2015 a significant number of seagrasses and they will take many decades to recover, assuming that the sargassum is controlled. If it continues to arrive, they will not recover. As of last year, we already began to record massive wildlife mortality.


Last year, researchers identified dead individuals of 78 species on the beaches, especially fish, but also crustaceans, lobsters, urchins, octopuses and others. 

As of May of last year, corals also began to die from a diseases called “white syndrome.” We have no evidence yet that it’s caused by sargassum, but it began in May when it was the peak month of sargassum arrival in 2018. In some monitoring sites, we have recorded that 50% to 80% of the corals died in six months.


Corals are very delicate animals; they grow very slowly—about one centimetre per year. These corals were between 100 and 700 years old. Other researchers are rescuing coral fragments to try to preserve their genetic information.


Seaweed can save the planet from plastic waste

According to the UN report - From bags to bottles. Some 13 million tonnes of plastic flow into oceans every year.

On the one hand, the benefits of plastic are undeniable, as the material is cheap, lightweight and easy to make. This leads to global lactic production skyrocketing over the next 10 to 15 years, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

 On the other hand, the world already seems to be unable to cope with the amount of plastic waste, it lies strewn on beaches around the world from the Gaza Strip to the Galapagos.

Washed in by the tide, it mixes with seaweed and is often mistaken by birds and animals as food. Marine species ingest or become entangles by plastic debris. Sometimes causing injury or even death. 


The UN says 100,000 marine animals die each year due to plastic related causes.

Now researchers have devised a possible solution for durable plastic waste. Inspired by the ocean. Scientists at Tel Aviv University have created a biodegradable plastic by cultivating natural polymers made by a micro-organism that feast in seaweed algae.


How seaweed can save the planet?

‘They are essentially the lungs of the earth. As photosynthesising plants, seaweeds produce the oxygen that we breathe, and nearly two-thirds of all oxygen on earth is produced in the oceans by seaweeds, micro-algae and other aquatic plants such as sea grasses. Seaweeds are not only incredibly important on a global scale for the oxygenation of the atmosphere, but they’re also the foundation of most food webs.’


Due to its ability to regenerate quickly, seaweed has the ability to be a nutritious source of food for a long time, potentially helping to solve the food shortage crises we’re facing. Furthermore, if livestock ate small amounts of seaweed mixed into their normal feed, their methane production would be slashed, stopping millions of tonnes of methane being produced and helping battle global warming and climate change.


 

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