Seaweed are often classified as one of the crucial part that compose the ocean ‘forests’. They may occur in small or large amounts, depending on which area of the ocean they grow. Seaweed are not entirely a plant, they are more suitable to be called as an algae.
The ocean relies on them for many different reasons which are explained in these 17 Importance of Seaweed in Marine Ecosystems. The slimy and the slippery algae hold a critical function that affects everything in the ocean.
1. Food Source
Seaweed fall under the producer in the food chain of the marine ecosystem. This means that they are one of the primary food source for the marine creatures. The marine creatures will either eat the seaweed directly or consume the decomposing parts that turn into smaller particles.
2. Maintain Food Web
It’s crucial for the marine food web to function the way it’s supposed to. It keeps marine creatures to stay alive. The food web can save them from starvation which may lead to decreased population or extinction. As the smaller creatures eat seaweed, the larger animals will feed on them.
Also see: Importance of Marine Food Chain
3. Provide Energy
Marine animals need energy so that they can carry on with their lives. They can gain their energy by feeding on the different species of seaweed in the ocean water. They grow quickly and they are nutritious too.
4. Fertiliser for the Sediment
Seaweed is also nutritious for the sea floor. Their decomposed materials or broken down particles will eventually settle to the deep parts of the ocean. They will mix with the ocean sediment. The quality of the sediment can increase as the seaweed acts as a fertiliser.
Read more: Destruction of Ocean Floor
5. Give Shelter
Marine animals are always in search for shelter. Either they use it for resting, lurk for prey or hide away from predators. Those who migrate seasonally may also find the seaweed useful. Some seaweed can grow and cover large areas. Marine animals can hide in all those seaweed for as long as they want.
6. Act as Habitat
Other than being a shelter, seaweed can also act as habitat. Marine animals may find them suitable enough for them to settle in. Besides that, they can use the vegetation as nurseries. Some creatures that use them as nurseries are the abalone, mollusks and lobster.
7. Keep Ocean Healthy
Ocean naturally absorbs some amount of carbon dioxide in the air. As the toxic gas enters the water, the seaweed can absorb it in their leaves. The ocean water becomes clean and also healthy. The biggest contributor for this role is the kelp, a species of seaweed.
8. Make Marine Animals Healthy
When the seaweed can make the ocean water clean, then the marine animals that live in it will also be healthy. This ensures the optimal growth of the marine creatures. In the long run, the seaweed helps to support their existence in the marine ecosystem.
9. Maintain Stability
Large seaweed forests can maintain the stability of particular marine areas. They are strong enough to stabilise the marine rocks. Many marine creatures rely on rocks as their place for protection. Other than that, marine rocks can also break down to add more composition to ocean sediment.
10. Prevent Erosion
Seaweed can also prevent erosion. Sediment inside the ocean water can be held down by the seaweed so that they won’t be carried away by strong currents. Other than that, seaweed can also reduce erosion at the shoreline which is also a part of the marine ecosystem.
11. Traps Parasites
Parasites can flow freely in the ocean water. But the seaweed forests can trap them away. Thus, they won’t negatively affect any marine creatures that live in the ocean. There is less chance of harm that the parasites can cause within the ocean water.
Also see: Types of Ocean Parasites
12. Traps Waste
Waste is a huge threat to the marine ecosystem. It can leak harmful chemicals or break down into toxic materials. Waste make the marine habitat dirty and marine animals may mistake them as food. But there can be less chance of waste floating around the ocean water due to seaweed. A forest of seaweed can trap them to stay in one place.
Read also: Importance of Keeping the Ocean Clean
13. Take In Excess Nutrients
Sometimes excess nutrients from the mainland enter the ocean water. Too many of them can mean the death of the marine ecosystem. Healthy seaweed can prevent that from happening. They are able to take in the excess nutrients which can be toxic.
14. Feed Deep Sea Creatures
It can be difficult for some marine plants to grow in the deep ocean. The sunlight can’t penetrate that far. Fortunately, the brown and the red seaweed can survive in the deepest parts of the ocean. They have the ability to photosynthesise due to the pigments they have. This means that deep sea creatures can feast on them too.
Read more: Characteristics of Deep Ocean Animals
15. Determine Ocean Condition
The ocean is becoming more vulnerable to changes due to chemicals or global warming. However, seaweed can help in determining the condition of the ocean. If there is any changes in their growth then that could either mean the ocean is healthy or unhealthy.
16. Support Biodiversity
There are plenty of reasons why biodiversity is so vital to the marine ecosystem. A degrading biodiversity can pose a serious threat to every marine creature. As the seaweed continue to exist and protect marine creatures, the biodiversity of the ocean can be supported and maintained.
17. Produce Oxygen
Seaweed also produce oxygen in the marine ecosystem. Most of the oxygen are released back into the atmosphere. However, some are still used by the marine creatures. They need oxygen as well. For instance, fish rely more on oxygen intake in areas with high temperature as they are cold-blooded creatures.
The seaweed heavily impact the marine ecosystem. They bring positive effects to the marine creatures so that they continue to live their lives in the ocean.