June 2021 Research Summaries and Sustainability Tips

Updated: Jul 13



You've found the complete list of Everblue's research summaries and tip posts for the month of June! Scroll down to read about current ocean research and tips for how you can live a more ocean-friendly life. Be sure to check back in each week for the newest research drops.


A piece of Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp) in the ocean

JUNE 3: RESEARCH SUMMARY - SEAWEED SPONGES

Plants need important nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in order to grow! This is why they’re used in commercial fertilizers. However, these nutrients become TOO much of a good thing when rain washes them into rivers, streams, and eventually the ocean, polluting our seas and causing large blooms (extensive growth) of algae.


While algae blooms are a problem on coastlines around the world, there is a potential solution: seaweed! Specifically, farming edible kelp. Kelp soaks up huge amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus as it grows, so strategically-planned kelp farming has potential as a natural way to clean up nutrient pollution. It’s also a highly sustainable form of aquaculture (growing food in water) that requires no inputs, like the fertilizers and water that land-based crops need, so kelp farms can provide yummy food and green jobs while cleaning up our coastlines!


RESEARCH: A case for seaweed aquaculture inclusion in U.S. nutrient pollution management. Racine et al. 2021.

PHOTO: Emily Freya Krakoff


JUNE 4: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - SNACKING ON SEAWEED

A woman processing harvested seaweed on a boat.

Have you ever eaten seaweed? If you like sushi, you probably have! Until recently, the seaweed used to make nori for sushi is the only seaweed many people in the west have eaten. Now, thanks to the health food industry, more kelp-based snacks are starting to appear in grocery stores, and for good reason!


Seaweed is generally high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and important vitamins and minerals (including B12,) though it varies between different species. Not all seaweeds are safe to eat in large quantities, so before you go out and try to harvest your own, you probably want to try buying your kelp snacks from companies like akua.co, barnaclefoods.com, and others that provide some tasty species of seaweed along with cooking instructions and recommended serving sizes. Try it out and let us know in the comments what you think! You can also visit greenwave.org for more information.


RESEARCH: Risks and benefits of consuming edible seaweeds. Cherry et al. 2019.

PHOTO: Salt Sisters Maine


JUNE 10: RESEARCH SUMMARY - CONSERVATION ON WORLD OCEANS DAY

Back in 2019, marine scientists Jane Lubchenco and Steven Gaines wrote an article for Science Magazine that talks about how World Oceans Day is important as a way to shift the narrative around marine conservation. So what did they mean when they were talking about an “ocean narrative?”


For ages, the ocean was thought to be so large and powerful that we as humans could never harm it - now, the pendulum has swung so that many people believe the ocean is so large and so depleted and destroyed by human activity that we will never be able to fix the problem. Lubchenco and Gaines argue that a different kind of narrative is needed: one that ocean protection is both possible and achievable if we put our collective minds to the task. “Many powerful solutions already exist and could be scaled up,” says the article. “The ocean is not too big to fail, nor is it too big to fix. It is too big to ignore.”


You can read the full article here - it’s open access, so you don’t need a subscription to Science in order to read it! Hooray for access to research for all!


RESEARCH: A new narrative for the ocean. Lubchenco and Gaines. 2019.

PHOTO: Renee Grinnell Capozzola, winner of the UN World Oceans Day Life & Livelihoods Photo Competition


JUNE 11: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - CELEBRATE OCEANS EVERY DAY


In the Science article we covered yesterday, Jane Lubchenco and Steven Gaines argued that the ocean needs a new narrative that conservation is within our reach, and that World Oceans Day can help perpetuate this narrative.


However, World Oceans Day only happens once a year… the good news is, you can celebrate it every day by making ocean-friendly choices in your day-to-day life! It’s important that we use every day to spread the narrative that ocean conservation is important and achievable. You can help spread this narrative by adopting a few of Everblue’s sustainability tips and then telling your friends and community about them - this shows people that making sustainable changes is a choice that is accessible to everyone.


Each week, Everblue posts a new sustainability tip for you. Our sustainability tips give you little (and big) ways we can all live more ocean-conscious lifestyles, from reducing your energy use to educating yourself continually to switching to reusables. The Everblue team searches for and reports on the widest range of sustainable topics we can find, giving you an endless amount of options you can pick from - that way, we can all choose the tips that work best for our lifestyle, budget, and desires, curating individual ocean-friendly lives. We want to show you how accessible, easy, and cheap sustainable lifestyles really are, despite what the high price tags on some “eco-friendly” products might say. Sustainability is for everyone!


And, while you’re at it, share some of Everblue’s posts on your story to spread the word! Together, we’ll be able to encourage our communities to celebrate the ocean every day by living ocean-friendly lifestyles.


JUNE 24: RESEARCH SUMMARY - HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS


This week’s research topic is eutrophication, which is what happens when there are too many nutrients in the water! And, when eutrophication happens, uncontrolled growth of algae usually follows. Too many nutrients like nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the ocean (usually from commercial fertilizers) cause huge “blooms” of algae to grow.

Algal blooms can be toxic to humans and fish, causing asthma and even death. And, as the algae dies and decays, it uses up all the oxygen in the water that marine animals need to survive, creating areas or zones with little to no oxygen. These blooms are often called HABs, or Harmful Algal Blooms. Most recently, HABs have made a splash in the news as “red tides” showing up on beaches such as in Florida. The photograph above is an aerial image of a red tide from National Geographic, showing the streaks of red algae growing out of control.


RESEARCH: The relationships between the occurrences of red tides (HABs) and eutrophication in coastal waters. X.U. Ning et al. 2005.

PHOTO: National Geographic



JUNE 25: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - OCEAN-FRIENDLY FERTILIZER


Want to give your plants some extra nutrients but don’t want to contribute to that unhealthy eutrophication we’ve been discussing this week? Next time you eat bananas, save the peels!


Banana peels are 42% potassium, a nutrient that is really yummy for plants to grow. In fact, potassium (K) is one of the main components in commercial fertilizers along with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Together, they’re usually abbreviated as NPK on fertilizer bottles. However, N and P have been shown to be big contributors to eutrophication. Nitrogen and phosphorus in organic fertilizers in water draining from farms and gardens creates “runoff” that ends up in the ocean, creating “eutrophication” zones, or zones with too many nutrients. These excess nutrients allow phytoplankton and algae in the water to grow out of control, creating harmful algal blooms (HABs). These HABs can be detrimental to both human and marine organism health. Algae blooms can also lead to low-oxygen zones, because as they overproduce, grow, and die, they use up all of the oxygen in the water. These low-oxygen zones can also be called “anoxic.” So, all around, fertilizers with nutrients N and P can lead to eutrophication, algae blooms, and anoxic conditions in our ocean.


Using banana peels is a sustainable, zero-waste, organic, and ocean-friendly alternative to commercial fertilizers with N and P! If you cut up banana peels and let them soak in water for a couple of days, the potassium will leach from the peels into the water and you can use it to water your plants as a natural, ocean-friendly fertilizer. The added bonus is that it’s zero-waste - just compost the peels at the end! Try it for your houseplants and garden and tell us how it goes in the blog comments!




33 views0 comments