Seaweed are important ecological constituents of the oceans. They form the basis of the trophic chain in the oceans, provide shelters for many aquatic animals, filter the oceans waters and release oxygen to the atmosphere. But, what most people don´t know is that seaweeds are often present in our lives too.
Here are 5 ways seaweeds are present in our daily lives:
This is probably the best known use of seaweeds.
Edible seaweed are common in Asian dishes, like sushi (nori), sea grapes (Caulerpa) and Kombu. But they are also present in the western culinary, like the red alga Palmaria (known as “dulse”), which is eaten as a condiment in North America and Europe (Brittany, Ireland, and Iceland); The Irish moss or carrageenan moss, with a long history of use in foods in Ireland and some parts of Europe; and Gracilaria (known as Ogo, ogonori, or sea moss), which is eaten as a salad vegetable in Hawaii.
Agar, alginate, and carrageenan are three hydrocolloids that are extracted from various macroalgae. Hydrocolloids are substances with very large molecules, which dissolves in water to give a viscous solution. These extracts are used to stabilize certain products, such as ice-cream and beer. Agar is also used for bacterial cultures in laboratories and as impression material in dentistry.
Different seaweed species are used as supplementary feed for animals such as poultry, pigs, cows, but also in aquaculture with fish.
There is a long history of coastal people using seaweed, particularly large brown seaweed like Kelps, to fertilize land. In addition, Maerl is the common name of a fertilizer derived from calcareous red algae frequently used in Europe.
Extract of algae is frequently found on the list of ingredients on cosmetic packages, particularly in hand, body and face lotions and creams. Such products usually show on their labels that the contents include “marine extract,” “extract of alga,” or similar. Normally it means that hydrocolloids extracted from seaweed has been added.
Fernando Scherner is a biologist writing for Eukarya Consultoria Ambiental, an environmental consultancy company based in Brazil, which assists companies and the public sector to solve environmental issues.