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A kelp forest. NOAA

The devastating consequences climate change is already having on coral reefs is well known, but now scientists have discovered that yet another unique marine ecosystem is threatened by rising carbon dioxide levels.

A paper published in Ecology this month based on research led by the University of Adelaide found that ocean carbon dioxide levels projected for the end of this century would cause weeds to grow and displace ecologically important kelp forests.

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Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods hauls kelp for salsa. Bethany Sonsini Goodrich

By Sarah Bedolfe

Summer in southeast Alaska is kelp season for the cofounders of Barnacle Foods, Lia Heifetz and Matt Kern. Each week, the pair watches the tides and weather, waiting for the right moment to cruise out to the abundant kelp beds offshore. They lean over the side of the boat and pull up the fronds and stalks, one piece at a time. As soon as they get back to shore, they start processing the day's harvest into a local delicacy: kelp salsa.

Salsa and Alaskan algae might seem like odd bedfellows, but for Barnacle Foods, it's a calculated decision. The kelp's savory notes make the salsa's flavor "a little more explosive," according to Kern. And the pairing is also a practical one. "Salsa is such a familiar food item," Heifetz said. It's "a gateway to getting more people to eat seaweed."

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