Kerala research group discovers seaweed colony in Kovalam

[India] International tourism hub Kovalam has thrown up an underwater surprise: a seaweed colony that is proving to be a marine biologists’ delight. The discovery was made by Friends of Marine Life (FML), a Valiyathura-based research group which was one of three Indian organisations invited to participate in the recent UN Ocean Conference in New York. This particular seaweed, discovered at a depth of three metres, has been identified as belonging to the genus ‘Padina’ and species ‘Tetrastromatica,’ FML convener Robert Panipilla said.

“You can’t call the Padina tetrastromatica a rare find, but then, in 2014-15, we had identified 30 species of seaweeds off Thiruvananthapuram coast as part of a research project for the State Biodiversity Board. But that entire underwater ecosystem has vanished with the commencement of reclamation and dredging for the Vizhinjam port. On the other hand, this particular colony has come to the notice of marine research organisations for the first time,” he said.

The colony covers an area of 2,000 sq ft, and was discovered on eight rocky beds at a depth of three metres north of Kovalam, between the tourist hub and Panathura. The discovery was originally made in February this year, but FML grasped the importance of their discovery only when scientists, attending a discussion on climate change at the Ocean Conference, underscored the importance of seaweeds, especially in the production of oxygen.

In many parts of the world today, seaweeds – a common name for various types of algae – are considered a ‘superfood,’ thanks to their high nutrient value and medicinal properties. “Studies have shown that padina is rich in polysaccharides and that they can be useful for diabetics,” Panipilla said. The coastal stretch from Kovalam to Chovvara is considered an ideal environment for seaweeds because of the rocky seabed.

Moreover, seaweed colonies act as ecosystems for other marine species, especially ornamental fish varieties, crabs and cuttle fish. FML has urged the scientific community in the state to take note of this discovery and adopt measures to protect local seaweed varieties.

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