A reference repository for marine algae

[India] The National Centre for Seaweed Herbarium at Marine Algal Research Station (MARS) here has earned the distinction of becoming an internationally acclaimed centre with about 5,000 specimens of more than 280 seaweed species.

“This is the only internationally recognised centre having a diverse collection of seaweeds from across the country, predominantly from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, and designated as a reference repository at the national level,” Vaibhav A. Mantri, Senior Scientist and Scientist in charge, MARS, told The Hindu .

“It has the largest collection of marine algae in the country, including species found in the islands of Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar and Andaman and Nicobar archipelago,” he said.

It stocks 5,000 specimens of 280 seaweed species

The main objective of the facility was to provide an authentic identification service to students, researchers and industries, he said adding the herbarium was also being used to continue the taxonomic studies of Indian marine algal flora which was part of the mandate of this institute.

Each herbarium specimen has been given accession numbers and the research station plans to barcode all specimens for accessioning and make them available through a computer database software for wider dissemination of information.

“The collection of the specimens began in the 1960s and the research station has come a long way in building the herbarium,” scientists K. Easwaran and Subir K. Mandal, who have been updating the collection, said.

Shifted last year

The herbarium, which was maintained in Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Gujarat, was shifted here last year as the Mandapam station was found to be ideal for seaweed collection and preservation, they said.

The research station had identified 282 seaweed species in the seaweed diversity survey conducted in Tamil Nadu in 2012 and specimens of all the species were preserved in the herbarium, Mr. Easwaran said.

Tamil Nadu, with a 1,076-km-long coastline, harboured a variety of seaweed species making this coast second richest after Gujarat in the country, Mr. Mantri said.

The seaweeds were traditionally exploited for phycocolloids extraction in Ramanathapuram and Pudukottai districts. About 5,000 women were involved in seaweed harvest in the island region, he said.

Gracilaria edulis and Gelidiella acerosa, which were collected in good quantities from this coast till 2003, had become scarce owing to indiscriminate harvest by the seaweed industry.

Species such as Sarcodia montaagneana, Agardiealla robusta and Spiridia filamentosa were dwindling owing to over-harvesting, he said and added that periodic documentation of primary data on seaweed biodiversity of the State was essential for making policy decisions.

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