University of New Hampshire and University of South Florida researchers have published a new book that provides the first comprehensive look at seaweeds in the Northwest Atlantic in more than 60 years.
Seaweeds of the Northwest Atlantic by NH Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Arthur Mathieson, professor of marine plant biology at UNH, and Clinton Dawes, university research professor emeritus at the University of South Florida, documents more than 500 types of seaweed and represents more than 40 years of research on Northwest Atlantic seaweeds. The book will aid researchers throughout the Northeast and Southwest Atlantic coasts.
“Many seaweeds are economically important as sources of food such as sushi and dulse, and phycocolloids such as agar, alginates, and carrageenans. In addition, they serve a functional role in diverse marine ecosystem as habitats and food,” Mathieson said.
The global commercial seaweed market is expected to reach $22.1 billion by 2024, according to Grand View Research, Inc. The growing demand for food products derived from seaweeds is expected to augment the global commercial seaweed market growth. In addition, the increasing application of seaweeds in the medical and healthcare, animal feed, and fertilizers sector also is projected to boost the future market growth as well as industrial acceptance of seaweed extracts such as alginate, agar, and carrageenan.
The volume describes the seaweeds of the Northwest Atlantic ranging from Ellesmere Island, Canada, to Maryland, USA. That is, it characterizes the boreal cold water and Arctic floras from the Gulf of Maine northward and the warm-temperate flora southward from Cape Cod to Maryland.
“The book provides a detailed synopsis of diverse seaweed taxa, many of which are in common to northern Europe and some from the northeast Pacific. Such information can document environmental impacts both locally and regionally, such as the loss of different taxa due to anthropogenic impacts and climate variability,” Mathieson said. “Unfortunately in our area, enhanced eutrophication has caused some massive algal blooms, followed by die-offs and reduced oxygen within the Great Bay Estuarine System.”
A project that took seven years, the book includes detailed description and illustrations of more than 500 seaweed taxa, including about 2,000 line drawings as well as description of each taxon’s taxonomy, ecology, and economic value. The authors summarized changes in species names, and documented more than 30 introduced species based upon long-term field and laboratory studies. The 30 introduced species have primarily resulted from ship traffic from Asia and Europe, enhanced aquaculture, and climate variability.
"This book represents a detailed and updated scholarly synthesis of the marine algae of the northwestern arc of the North Atlantic, from as far south as the Chesapeake Bay to northern parts of Canada. The publication of this comprehensive flora will be of immense value not only to academics but to workers in marine conservation and related fields, in tracking possible invasions of seaweeds, and in determining if ranges of some species are changing over recent decades, possibly due to global warming. Mathieson and Dawes have done a masterful job," said Michael Wynne, coauthor of Introduction to the Algae: Structure and Reproduction.
Long-term studies by Mathieson and Dawes have been instrumental in identifying new occurrences of non-native and/or invasive algae in the Northeast. The new algal flora is useful in both applied and basic research. For example, several companies that monitor impacts of coastal nuclear power plants will use the new flora to monitor changes in macroalgae populations related to reactor cooling water. Mathieson also is tracking changes in macroalgae populations near oyster beds in Little Bay, part of the Great Bay Estuary.
Many of Mathieson’s preserved seaweed samples that helped inform the book can be viewed at the Albion Hodgdon Herbarium, which is located on the UNH Durham campus in the Spaulding Life Sciences Building and has one of the largest collections (more than 80,000 specimens) in New England. Mathieson has served as the curator of marine algae at the herbarium, where historic and recently collected seaweeds from throughout the world — with particular emphasis on specimens from northeastern North America and Neotropical regions — are available for viewing.
The material summarized in the Northwest Atlantic volume is based upon work supported by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, through joint funding of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 1007230, and the state of New Hampshire. Additional funding was provided by NH Sea Grant and the Hubbard Research Marine Endowment of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering.
Founded in 1887, the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture is UNH’s original research center and an elemental component of New Hampshire's land-grant university heritage and mission. We steward federal and state funding, including support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to provide unbiased and objective research concerning diverse aspects of sustainable agriculture and foods, aquaculture, forest management, and related wildlife, natural resources and rural community topics. We maintain the Woodman and Kingman agronomy and horticultural research farms, the Macfarlane Research Greenhouses, the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center, and the Organic Dairy Research Farm. Additional properties also provide forage, forests and woodlands in direct support to research, teaching, and outreach.