Have you ever wondered what the purpose of seaweed and kelp forests are? Well, it is much more than just 'grass of the sea'. A new study published in Nature Communications suggests that a seaweed's value extends well beyond land. Because of their positive impact on commercial fisheries and the environment, researchers have estimated kelp forests, forests of large seaweed, to be worth about $465 billion to $562 billion a year worldwide. This flora also absorbs 4.5 million tons (4.96 tons) of carbon dioxide annually, just like forests on land.
A team of researchers including Aaron Eger from the University of New South Wales in Australia, set out to quantify the benefits of seaweed. They started by focusing on six species of seaweed which grew in dense thickets known as forests. These forests are home to around 1,500 species of fish and marine life. This marine life supports commercial fishing and the food supply. They added this "value" to seaweed's other benefits. Seaweed absorb carbon dioxide (mainly responsible for the warming of our planet) as well as nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff which benefits our oceans as it helps maintain the quality of our water.
Seaweed tests have given researchers an idea of how much plants absorb. "Like plants on land absorb nutrients, they absorb carbon dioxide, and they use light to grow," Eger said. Overall, these seaweed forests provide two main benefits. They support $465 to $562 billion a year for the global economy.
They also absorb almost five million tons of carbon dioxide. Although not discussed in this article, seaweed is also a promising climate-tolerant food source that can boost the spirits of female farmers. This miracle plant is part of a sustainable future in many ways.