Understanding Recent Breakthroughs in Sugar Kelp Adaptation

Jenn Hoskins
10th March, 2024

Understanding Recent Breakthroughs in Sugar Kelp Adaptation

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Sugar kelp adapts to environmental stress by changing its photosynthesis and protective molecules
  • Climate change is shifting sugar kelp's range, with declines in warmer areas and growth in polar regions
  • Genetic differences across sugar kelp populations affect their survival and response to temperature changes
Saccharina latissima, commonly known as sugar kelp, is a type of seaweed with significant ecological and commercial value. Found predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere, this species has been the subject of scientific study since the 1960s due to its role in coastal ecosystems and its potential for industrial applications. Researchers from the University of Bremen have compiled an extensive review of the literature to better understand how S. latissima responds to environmental stressors and to guide sustainable cultivation practices[1]. The review reveals that S. latissima has developed numerous strategies to cope with changing environmental conditions, such as adjusting its photosynthesis, altering levels of protective molecules like osmolytes and antioxidants, and changing gene expression. These adaptations are crucial as S. latissima faces significant threats from climate change, which has already led to a noticeable shift in its distribution. Specifically, there has been a decline in its presence at the southern edges of its range in the Atlantic and an increase in polar regions. Understanding these responses is not only important for the species itself but also for the marine ecosystems it supports. Kelp forests, formed by species like S. latissima, are known to be critical habitats for a variety of marine life. Changes in kelp abundance can have cascading effects throughout the ecosystem. The review also examines the genetic differentiation across the distribution of S. latissima, which has implications for the fitness of populations in different locations. This genetic variability is a key factor in how the species adapts to local conditions, including temperature changes[2]. The study emphasizes the importance of considering local adaptation when developing strategies for kelp cultivation and restoration, particularly in the face of rising ocean temperatures. Additionally, the researchers discuss the complex relationships between S. latissima and its associated microbiota. The composition of the bacterial communities that live on and within the kelp varies with geography, part of the alga, season, and the health of the alga[3]. These microbial communities can influence the health and physiology of S. latissima, and understanding them is crucial for managing both wild populations and cultivated kelp. Seaweed farming, including the cultivation of S. latissima, has been recognized for its potential environmental benefits, such as providing habitat for marine life, coastal protection, and water quality improvement through bioremediation[4]. The review underscores the importance of considering the development of epibiont communities—organisms that live on the surface of the kelp—when managing farms, as they can affect both the ecological value and the commercial quality of the crop. The review also acknowledges the challenges of studying marine organisms like S. latissima in laboratory settings. The use of innovative techniques, such as microfluidic devices, allows for the controlled growth of specimens and high-resolution imaging, which can shed light on the alga's development and response to different environmental conditions[5]. In summary, the comprehensive review by the University of Bremen provides a detailed understanding of the biology and ecology of S. latissima. It highlights the species' adaptability in the face of environmental stressors and the importance of taking into account its genetic diversity and interactions with microbial communities when considering conservation and cultivation efforts. As climate change continues to impact marine ecosystems, studies like this are vital for developing strategies to preserve and sustainably utilize these important species.

SustainabilityEcologyMarine Biology


Main Study

1) The sugar kelp Saccharina latissima I: recent advances in a changing climate.

Published 8th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Differences by origin in methylome suggest eco-phenotypes in the kelp Saccharina latissima.


3) The Saccharina latissima microbiome: Effects of region, season, and physiology.


4) Development and Diversity of Epibiont Assemblages on Cultivated Sugar Kelp (Saccharina latissima) in Relation to Farming Schedules and Harvesting Techniques.


5) Cultivation and Imaging of S. latissima Embryo Monolayered Cell Sheets Inside Microfluidic Devices.


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