Seaweed: The Basics.


"Seaweed" is the common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean and other bodies of water. Seaweeds are a nutrient-rich protein source, that are  incredibly efficient at sucking up carbon dioxide and using it to grow. Seaweeds pull more of the greenhouse gas from the water than eelgrass, mangroves, and salt marshes combined. Traditionally, seaweeds are categorized as “Reds”, “Greens” or “Browns” based on their predominant or unique pigments.

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 REDS

This algae (Rhodophyta) has a red colouration due to the pigments called phycocyanin and phycoerythrin. The red algae is commercially used as a natural dye in products such as chewing gum, soft drinks, dairy, and

cosmetic products. So your favourite eyeliner or lipstick could have red algae in their ingredients! 

Research shows that this species has anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-tumor, neuroprotective (brain), and hepatoprotective (liver) benefits. Pretty useful right?

BROWNS

The predominance of fucoxanthin characterises the brown seaweeds (Phaeophyceae), along with the chlorophylls, a pigment of this algae group. They contain alginates which are used in food, cosmetics, textiles, and in pharmaceutical industries as emulsifiers, thickeners, and gel-forming agents. Studies show that fucoxanthin has anti-tumoral, antioxidant, and anti-obesity properties.

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Image by Martin Dawson

GREENS

This seaweed (chlorophyta) is green as there are no other pigments to mask the chlorophyll. The compounds extracted from the green seaweed are very versatile and can be utilised in pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals as well as in functional foods for agriculture and bioremediation. 

One of the most common green seaweed species, Ulva, is used in heavy metal bioremediation to remove heavy metals for their recuperation, promoting a heavy metal circular economy.

References

García-Poza, Sara, et al. “The Evolution Road of Seaweed Aquaculture: Cultivation Technologies and the Industry 4.0.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 8 Sept. 2020, www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/18/6528. 

“1. INTRODUCTION.” SEAWEED RESOURCES AND THEIR CULTURE IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA REGION, www.fao.org/3/AC007E/AC007E01.htm.