Sargassum Seaweed – Floating Islands & BP

June 23 2010 - 10:20 AM

Overview_df In addition to America, Columbus was one of the first to bring back reports of the Sargasso Sea. In the middle of the ocean is an area of water that's surrounded by opposing currents. It results in an enormous stagnant, elliptical pocket that is 2 million square miles in area. Think of it as liquid land. The currents deposit on to it. Until recently it's been mostly seaweed and has always been a refuge for turtles, a migratory stop for eels among other species, and a source of literary fascination. Sargassum seaweed gets its name from this sea. It's the seaweed that's also found floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the tragedies of the BP spill is that the 'floating land' is bearing a significantly larger brunt of the ecological impact. Mucked up seaweed floating around in the gulf doesn't get the reaction that oil-soaked marshes do, but in a way it's 'land'. It has an indiginous population that have evolved to match the brown seaweed color. Sargasso seahorses, pipefish, file fish, anenomes, crabs, shrimp. Butterfish, and hake use the seaweed as breeding ground.

The organisms and species that use it are consumed by what we consume. It is the ecosystem. It is part of our food chain. When you see piles of rusty seaweed on the news, this is what it is. It is our food.

The biggest irony is that Mitsubishi is working to develop biofuel from seaweed. While we are dealing with fossil fuels that work in spite of our ecology. The Japanese are trying to develop fuel that works because of it. From the Sunday Times UK, From 2005 (!)

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry mentioned
carbon dioxide absorption by seaweed in its Technology Roadmap for
2005. The project is led by Masahiro Notoya, a world expert on seaweed
from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. Dr Notoya
believes that Sostera marina and sargassum, herded to the right
parts of the ocean, will grow up to 40ft every year, absorbing about 36
tonnes of carbon dioxide in the process. Those seaweeds are also
popular fare for a variety of fish whose stocks have dwindled.

Working with Dr Notoya are scientists at the Mitsubishi Research
Institute and Tokyo University. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi
Electronics, Toshiba and NEC are among a large group of companies
involved. The Japanese Government has provided a small grant and is
expected to give more when a pilot version of the giant seaweed farm
opens next year.