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Posts Tagged ‘seaweed’

The Sand Beneath Our Feet

Posted by Jody on May 16, 2012

Northern California

When you walk out onto the sandy beach, happy and barefoot, what do look for?  Do you gaze straight ahead, into the sea, at the rolling waves or do you peer even farther out to spot ocean going vessels on the distant horizon?  Maybe you scan the sandy shoreline to see if there are any special beach treasures left behind by the recent high tide.  Are the tanned and toned volleyball players among the first things you scope out?

Southern California

It’s amazing what we could discover if we just looked down! Those seaweed piles (wrack lines) are brimming with miniature sized wildlife, and the sand beneath our feet is home to an abundance of coastal residents.  Beach hoppers, beach pillbugs, sand crabs, and intertidal clams, just to name a few, have all made their home in the ever changing sand.

Texas Gulf Coast

My daughter found a wonderful on-line article that she shared with me. “Sandy Beach Life,” from Marine Science by Genny Anderson, explores common organisms and coastal wildlife found on a typical sandy California beach. Full of terrific photos and information on coastal critters that I didn’t even know existed, it’s a very interesting read! It might be great fun to print up the article and pictures for a scavenger hunt or check list for your family’s next trip to any beach. Enjoy!

Southern California


Bladder kelp

Sand crab

Beach hopper

Western Gull

Wedge Clams

Beach pillbug

Kelp fly

A great day at the beach!

Link: Marine Science by Genny Anderson: Sandy Beach Life

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Six Seaweed Surprises

Posted by E.G.D. on March 13, 2012

Aloha, everyone, and welcome to one of our strangest Tuesday Tallies yet.  I’m sure that many of you remember Jody’s article “Seaweed- Trash or Treasure?” and today’s tally is a bit of a follow up.  We all know that seaweed is an important feature of many beaches, and we know that seaweed is part of beach wildlife habitats, but how many of us really stop to think of how often we as human beings use seaweed in our everyday lives?  I think a good many readers out there will be very surprised by at least some of these uses for seaweed I found yesterday:

Yum! Edible Seaweed (Photo by Nimur/Wikimedia Commons)

1: Food.  That’s the obvious one!  Seaweed has been used as a food source since prehistoric times in China, Korea, and Japan!  It has also been used as food in the British Isles since time immemorial in foods like laverbread.  Seriously, though, don’t think we don’t consume a great deal of seaweed in all the other parts of the world!  Alginate, carrageenan, and agar are used as additives in a ridiculous number of foods we eat every day, and all of them are seaweed products.  Have you eaten store bought ice cream lately?  I can almost guarantee it had carrageenan in it!  Also, believe it or not, it isn’t an uncommon additive in beer.

On a side note, my nephew is sitting behind me at this very moment eating a sheet of sushi nori.  It’s one of his favorite snacks!

2) Bath products and cosmetics.  Heck, if you’re in Ireland, you’ve probably been exposed to the idea of seaweed baths, in which people soak in hot briny water and seaweed as a sort of detox therapy.  These days, seaweed can be found as a feature in all sorts of bath and beauty products, from bath salts to lotion to soap.  Trust me, if you look “seaweed bath” or “seaweed cosmetics” up on amazon, you’ll find pages and pages of seaweed product options.

3) Fertilizer.  I have a good quote for this one: Seaweed has a vast history of being used for fertilizer by coastal populations all over the world. In most locales, large brown seaweed that has been cast adrift on beaches will be collected for use on nearby crops. Wet seaweed is heavy, so rarely travels very far inland, but more recent seaweed fertilizers have been commercialized with dried seaweed or seaweed extracts. Seaweed has a suitable nitrogen and potassium content for fertilizer, and its large amounts of insoluble carbohydrates are great for retaining moisture and conditioning soil, as well.

4) STD preventative.  OK, this one really blows me away.  Apparently, carrageenan can be used to prevent HPV, HIV, and herpes.  Who knew?

Seaweed Farms in Indonesia (Photo by J Milburn/Wikimedia Commons)

5) Biofuel?  Apparently!  There are a ridiculous number of scholarly articles about using seaweed to make biofuel.  If you’re interested, here’s one for your reading enjoyment.

6) Medicine.  Once again, I came across scholarly articles on this subject.  This one is very thorough, but also extremely academic, and therefore not always interesting.  The gist, as I see it, is that different seaweed products are used in different medicines to achieve different ends.  As a specific example, some seaweed products have been found useful in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Tada!  I would venture to say that seaweed is definitely more treasure than trash.  Three cheers for multipurpose beach treasures! -E.G.D.

Posted in Sand and Shoreline, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Seaweed – Trash or Treasure?

Posted by Jody on December 28, 2011

At Silver Strand State Beach in Southern California, you’ll find both sand and seaweed. Silver Strand State Beach does not rake the seaweed that has washed onto the sands of this 2 ½ mile stretch Pacific Ocean beach.  The Western Snowy Plovers, which are native to this area, depend on beached seagrass and kelp for food.  These tiny birds feed on the insects that live within the seaweed that has washed ashore. Young plovers hide in the washed-up kelp for protection.

Sign posted at Silver Strand State Beach, California

The “natural” beach at Silver Strand has three main zones: 1) The “swash” is the area washed by the tides, 2) The “wrack” line is the high tide line which is marked by rows of kelp, 3) Hilly dunes lie beyond the the high tide line.

According to an article, at Daytona Beach News-Journal online, Volusia County, Florida, which includes Daytona Beach, does not rake sargassum seaweed from its beaches, either.  The news article entitled “Seaweed piles up along parts of Volusia, Flagler coastline,” quotes Volusia County Beach Patrol Deputy Chief Scott Petersohn.“‘While it may stink for a couple of weeks, these blankets of rotting vegetation are good for the beach,’ Petersohn said. ‘We get lots of calls asking when are we going to clean it up, but we won’t and never will,’ he said, explaining the vegetation not only traps sand helping to rebuild the shoreline, but it also contains seeds of plants that sprout in the dunes.”

Wrack Line, Silver Strand State Beach, California (©Jody Diehl)

So, there we have it.  Layers of seaweed which have washed ashore on our favorite beaches are a good thing! They may pose a few inconveniences for sun worshipers and beachcombers in the short term, but these smelly, rotting marine plant masses buzzing with flies help to build, protect and preserve our beaches for the future.  That sounds like a worthy trade-off to me!  Nuisance or no, bring on the unraked beaches.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts below and start a discussion, if you have any ideas on the subject of unraked beaches.  Mahalo, and happy beach going.

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Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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