What is Kelp?

Kelps are seaweeds that fall in the genera of brown algae. It has 31 different species and can be abundantly found in the coastal areas of the colder marine ecosystems. These are big algal species that provide critical habitats for many organisms and species in the marine ecosystem. Kelp is also an excellent source of iodine and potash and is consumed as a delicacy. Here, we will study what kelp is and its benefits.

Kelp is a seaweed falling in the order Laminariales. The morphological structure of this seaweed resembles the algal species and it produces a complex carbohydrate known as algin. It grows very fast and forms a kelp forest near the coasts. It can be seen floating on the sea surface. It is named brown algae due to its characteristic colour. Its colour can vary from olive green to brown and gives a characteristic colour to the marine ecosystem.


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Due to its vast span of growth, it forms a huge forest-like structure underneath the shallow part of the sea resulting in the formation of a habitat for a diverse group of species. Invertebrates and fish flourish in this habitat as there is an ample supply of food available to support this unique ecosystem.


Structural Features of Kelp

Now that we know what is kelp, let us proceed to know its botanical features. The leaves of this species are long and flat and form tangles. It is hard to row a boat and causes hindrance for sea ferries. They are primarily found in the colder regions of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

The size of these algal species ranges from 1 to 3 meters. It might belong to the algae family but has strong stems that cling on the surface underneath the shallow portion of sea beds. The stem is strong enough and resembles that of the small plants. It is a fascinating fact that the stem of this plant is perennial whereas the meristematic portion or the growing blade parts are annual. Every year, the blades fall off whereas the stem remains submerged in the seawater.

Some of the species of sea kelp can grow as long as 65 meters. It is called giant kelp and is considered to be the largest among all the species known. It can be found in seawater where the temperature ranges from 18 to 20 °C.

The brilliant part of this plant’s morphology is that it resembles the structure of the advanced botanical species. The stem part holds to the ocean floor with its root-like attachments and the meristematic parts grow further to float on the surface. The stem-like strong lower portion enables this algal species to withstand the force of waves and other devastating external conditions and grow. The stalks also produce long branches with flat leaf-like projections. In fact, the internal tissues of the stem have helped in the transportation of organic materials to the entire body of kelp algae.

Another reason for the blades of kelp forest floating easily on the sea surface is the presence of air bladders in them. The presence of fleshy blades on the long stalks contains tissues that are filled with air. This enables the plant to float and absorb shock.


Kelp as Edible Seaweed

Kelp or brown algae are also considered a delicacy in some places. It is used to make excellent dishes and is highly nutritious too. The nutritional benefits of kelp are as follows.

  • Good Source of Iodine and Potassium: It contains two essential elements iodine and potassium required for our proper physiological functioning. Iodine helps us to keep our thyroid levels intact and to avoid different diseases related to the thyroid glands. Potassium keeps our neurological system functioning.

  • Good Source of Tyrosine: Tyrosine also enables to keep the thyroid gland properly functioning. It thus helps in cell damage repair, energy production, and growth control.

  • Vitamins and Minerals: It is also a good source of vitamins and minerals that our body needs for proper physiological functions.

  • Fiber: One of the biggest sea kelp benefits in terms of nutrition is the addition of a high amount of fiber to our diet. It helps in keeping our bowel movement better and also aids in digestion.


Economic Importance of Sea Kelp

  • It is used to extract alginic acid. This acid is used to make natural thickening agents in food industries. This natural thickening agent is used to manufacture bakery products and ice creams.

  • This acid is also used to make surgical threads and batteries.

  • Its natural compost is used as an excellent fertilizer for organic farming.

  • As it contains a high amount of potash, it is used to extract soda ash for glass industries.

  • Kelp for plants can be used for aquaponics and other aquarium cultures for growing fish.

  • As it is present in a vast amount on the sea surface, it fixes carbon and reduces the presence of this gas in the atmosphere.


Fun Facts

  • Kelp Minecraft: A digital presentation of kelp used for a video game named ‘Minecraft’. This game allows the players to create ocean biomes on their own using the various resources available

These are the features and benefits of kelp you should know. It can be used as a nutritional source and can serve as an exceptional kelp forest ecosystem in the seas and oceans.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Why are algae an important part of our ecosystem?

Ans: Algae like kelp fix carbon dioxide present in our atmosphere and deliver oxygen. It also provides a safe habitat for various vertebrate and invertebrate species in the marine world. Marine algae are important supporting a huge population of animals to survive and thrive.

2. Give two nutritional benefits of kelp?

Ans: The following are the two nutritional benefits of kelp.

  • It has a high content of iodine and potassium that are beneficial for our body.

  • Including kelp in our diet will help us consume a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

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