New research suggests that baby fish and coral larvae smell their way to neighborhoods where the living is good. Scents emitted by certain species of adult corals draw fish and coral larvae to healthy reefs, while the noxious odor of out-of-control seaweed drives them away from damaged ecosystems.
“These are fantastic results,” says Jelle Atema, a chemical and behavioral ecologist at Boston University. The findings demonstrate “dramatic differences” in coral or fish behavior, he says, and “how important chemical signals are in regulating the interactions between corals and seaweeds and fishes.”
Food, fuel and more will be produced in sea farms of future
Meet the farm of the future, where common seaweed is being upgraded from an environmental problem to a valuable natural resource and raw material.
"The fact is that algae can absorb nitrogen from the water as effectively as a wastewater treatment plant," says Gröndahl, a KTH Royal Institute of Technology researcher and head of the Seafarm project, which converts algae into eco-friendly food, medicine, plastic and energy.
The excessive fertilisation (eutrophication) of our seas results in an over-production of algae, commonly known as seaweed. Bathing beaches become unusable on account of algae blooms and entire ecosystems can be threatened.
"But, in our research, we turn the argument on its head and see algae as a resource. We collect excess algae along the coasts and cultivate new algae out at sea," Gröndahl says.
Already, seaweed is getting scooped up from the Baltic Sea, along Sweden’s southern coast, in order to be converted to biogas. The coast is rich with the seaweed. The city of Trelleborg estimates that its beaches host an excess of algae that is equivalent to the energy from 2.8 million litres of diesel fuel.