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Seaweed on the shore and in the ocean
Watch: how seaweed can save the planet

Most of us think of seaweed as that gross stuff that blankets beaches and ruins our fun when we’re trying to escape the summer heat. It can be invasive, it smells when it’s above the waterline, and it can really ruin your day at the beach.

But, did you know that seaweed has the potential to save the planet? Yes, that decomposing slimy gunk can be developed into sustainable food and materials that are much kinder on the earth’s natural resources.

Already a $10 billion industry in Japan and expanding, Australia is surrounded by seaweed, with our southern coast home to more unique species of seaweed than any other region on earth.

Dr Alecia Bellgrove, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and Ecology at Deakin University, wants people to see beyond how they normally view seaweed and look to it as an answer for some of the world’s most pressing issues.

‘Most people don’t interact with seaweeds when the plants are in their prime; they see them at the tail end of their life when they’re causing a problem,’ Dr Bellgrove says.

‘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 seagrasses. 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.

Is there anything this plant can’t do? Why don’t you peek below the waterline and have a look for yourself?

Want to learn more about our planet’s future? Read about how the humble teabag is doing great things for Mother Nature.

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Dr Alecia Bellgrove
Dr Alecia Bellgrove

School of Environment and Life Sciences, Deakin University
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