Ascophyllum Nodosum: A Common and Useful Seaweed

    Ascophyllum Nodosum: A Common and Useful Seaweed

    Ascophyllum nodosum is a large, common cold water seaweed or brown alga (Phaeophyceae) in the family Fucaceae, being the only species in the genus Ascophyllum. It is a seaweed that grows only in the northern Atlantic Ocean, also known in localities as feamainn bhuí, rockweed, Norwegian kelp, knotted kelp, knotted wrack or egg wrack.

    Ascophyllum nodosum has long tough and leathery fronds, irregularly dichotomously branched fronds with large, egg-shaped air bladders set in series at regular intervals along the fronds and not stalked. The fronds can reach 2 m in length and are attached by a holdfast to rocks and boulders. The fronds are olive-green, olive-brown in color and somewhat compressed, but without a midrib.

    Ascophyllum nodosum is found mostly on sheltered sites on shores in the midlittoral, where it can become the dominant species in the littoral zone. The species is found in a range of coastal habitats from sheltered estuaries to moderately exposed coasts, and often it dominates the intertidal zone (although subtidal populations are known to exist in very clear waters). However, it is rarely found on exposed shores, and if it is found, the fronds are usually small and badly scratched. This seaweed grows quite slowly, 0.5% per day, carrying capacity is about 40 kg wet weight per square meter, and it may live for 10–15 years. It may typically overlap in distribution with Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus serratus. Its distribution is also limited by salinity, wave exposure, temperature, desiccation, and general stress.

    Ascophyllum nodosum is taken by mouth for dental health, weight loss, or as a source of the mineral iodine. It contains nutrients such as large sugars (carbohydrates), fats, and the mineral iodine. Ascophyllum nodosum might help the body kill cancer cells and reduce swelling. It is now protected in many countries because of over-harvesting for a chemical called alginate.

    Ascophyllum nodosum has many uses and benefits for various industries and applications. Some of the most common and important uses are:

    • Fertilizer: Ascophyllum nodosum is used as a fertilizer, biostimulant and soil conditioner in domestic and commercial gardens and crops. It contains natural hormones, minerals, vitamins and amino acids that enhance plant growth, yield and quality. It also improves soil structure, water retention and microbial activity.
    • Alginic acid: Ascophyllum nodosum is used to make alginic acid, a polysaccharide, which is used in various industries including food, packaging, biotechnology, textile, dental and pharmaceutical. Alginic acid has properties such as thickening, stabilizing, gelling, emulsifying and film-forming. It is used to make products such as ice cream, salad dressing, toothpaste, wound dressing, drug delivery systems and biodegradable plastics.
    • Beauty products: Ascophyllum nodosum is used to make beauty products such as creams, lotions, masks, scrubs and shampoos. It has anti-aging, moisturizing, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and hair. It also helps to detoxify, nourish and protect the skin from environmental stressors.
    • Clothing: Ascophyllum nodosum is used to make clothing such as socks, underwear, shirts and jackets. It has antibacterial, antifungal and deodorizing properties that prevent odors and infections. It also has thermal regulation and moisture management properties that keep the body comfortable and dry.
    • Live seafood transport: Ascophyllum nodosum is used to transport live seafood such as lobsters, crabs, oysters and mussels. It provides a natural habitat for the seafood that reduces stress and mortality during transport. It also maintains the water quality by absorbing ammonia and releasing oxygen.
    • Reducing cow burps and farts: Ascophyllum nodosum is used to reduce the methane emissions from cows by modifying their rumen microbiome. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Ascophyllum nodosum contains compounds that inhibit the methanogenic bacteria in the cow’s stomach and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that produce less methane. This also improves the cow’s feed efficiency and milk production.
    • Movie props: Ascophyllum nodosum is used to create realistic movie props such as seaweed costumes, wigs, masks and scenery. It has a natural texture, color and shape that mimic the real seaweed. It is also easy to work with and durable.
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