Acid, alien and hot! Beach
visitors to put seaweeds under the spotlight
BEACH visitors are being asked to turn
scientist this summer to help understand a bit more about the seaside's unsung
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has teamed up with the Natural History
Museum on a project to get people out on our shores to help study seaweeds. With
their 3D structure and multi coloured forms, seaweeds create shelter and food
for an immense diversity of other marine organisms and also support commercial
fisheries. But most people don't give them a second look, and even consider them
a slippery nuisance we could do without!
The Big Seaweed Search, a new citizen science project, will help to map out the
distribution of seaweeds around Britain. Seaweed distribution and abundance
around our coasts is changing. To investigate why this might be and what's out
there, the Big Seaweed Search will try and establish just what is affecting
seaweeds on British coasts.
Miranda Krestovnikoff, TV presenter and diver says:- "This is a great way
to find out more about our beautiful UK seaweeds, and to help researchers track
how they are faring in changing environmental conditions. And anyone can join
in. At last, seaweeds will get the attention they deserve!"
The seashores and shallow seas around Britain support over 650 species of
seaweed, making them globally significant and an important component of British
biodiversity. The study will focus on 14 species, to increase our knowledge of
how sea temperature increase, sea level rise, impacts of non native species and
increasing acidity are affecting the distribution of different species of
seaweed. "It's easy to take them for granted, but seaweeds are fascinating, provide
shelter and food for an immense variety of marine wildlife, and are of enormous
use to humanity. People are unaware that our daily lives are affected by seaweeds in many
ways, from foods and medicines to buffering the effects of rough seas on our
vulnerable coastlines." says Professor Juliet Brodie, of the Natural History Museum.
In the Big Seaweed Search, 8 species of conspicuous wracks (part of the common
names of several species of seaweed) have been selected for the public to
record. Many of these will probably be familiar, such as bladder wrack, Fucus
vesiculosus, with its bladders resembling bubble-wrap that pop underfoot, and
knotted wrack, Ascophyllum nodosum, which produces a single egg like bladder
once a year and can live for an estimated 50 to 60 years.
The study also hopes to unearth more about non-natives and their impact on
British coasts. "One of the most well-known 'aliens' listed in the study
is wireweed, Sargassum muticum, a brown seaweed that was first recorded on the
south coast of England in 1973 and has spread very rapidly since then. Another
conspicuous non native seaweed and a favoured food in Japan, Wakame, Undaria
pinnatifida, was first recorded in Britain in 1994 on pontoons but is now
starting to colonise rocky shores. These 'aliens' are here to stay so we need to
learn to live with them." says Juliet.
Justine Millard, MCS Head of Education and Outreach, says the study will
establish whether any of these seaweeds are changing in their range, or becoming
more or less widespread. "Anyone can be a citizen scientist. We'll provide
simple instructions and an identification guide so that everyone can make a
valuable contribution to our knowledge of this important and underappreciated
To take part, register at:-