Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail
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Seaweed and Algae

Most of the substance referred to as “seaweed” is actually a brown algae known as sargassum. Sargassum is characterized by its bushy, highly-branched stem with numerous leafy blades and berry-like, gas-filled structures that aid its buoyancy. It tends to accumulate into large mats that drift through the water in response to wind and currents.

These drifting sargassum mats create a pelagic habitat that attracts fish, shrimp, crabs, sea turtles, and a number of other organisms. When buoyancy is lost and the sargassum sinks, it provides an important source of food for bottom-dwelling creatures.

Sargassum is sometimes cultivated and cleaned for use as an herbal remedy. Many Chinese herbalists prescribe powdered sargassum to be dissolved in warm water and consumed as a tea.

Green algae, red algae, and other non-sargassum forms of brown algae can also be found in the waters and shores of Pensacola Beach.

Green Algae

Green algae are the most diverse group of algae, with more than 7,000 species growing in a variety of habitats. Like vascular plants, green algae use chlorophyll to transform light energy into sugars. Sea lettuce is a common green algae found in Florida coastal waters and throughout the world. Sea lettuce has been used worldwide for food, fertilizer, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, color extracts, and energy production.

Red Algae

Approximately 6,000 species of red algae exist on earth, most in marine environments. Not all red algae appear red but all contain red pigment, which allows it to absorb low levels of light and therefore live at greater depths than other algae.

Brown Algae

Most of the larger, familiar seaweeds are brown algae. This includes kelp, rockweeds, and sargassum. Brown algae have colors ranging from brown to yellow-green brown. These darker colors result from the brown pigment fucoxanthin, which masks the green color of chlorophyll. Extractions from brown algae are commonly used in toothpaste and ice cream.