University Of Tasmania

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From Tasmania to the world: long and strong traditions in seaweed use, research, and development

Tasmania is an island state in south-eastern Australia that has a long and rich history of seaweed use, research, and development. It is a cool-temperate system with 750 macroalgal species currently described. Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples have lived on this land for at least 40,000 years utilising seaweed as food, shelter, water carriers and medicine, as well as for ceremonial reasons. Modern taxonomic investigations began with French naturalist Jacques-Julien Houtou de La Billardière in 1791, and there are 184 type specimens of seaweeds originating from Tasmania. Ecological and physiological studies of seaweed in Tasmania have focussed on the dominant large brown seaweeds (Laminariales and Fucales) and have contributed significantly to the global understanding of these systems, particularly related to community resilience, seaweed-urchin interactions, their habitat-forming role for other species, responses to global change, and restoration of lost habitat. Ocean warming and changing oceanography have caused a 95% decline in surface canopy cover of Macrocystis pyrifera in eastern Tasmania since the 1950s and led to a focus on restoring these lost forests. Tasmanian seaweed communities have a uniquely high proportion (up to ∼90%) of seaweeds that rely solely on CO2 for photosynthesis, which has implications for responses to ocean acidification. Tasmania has industries that use brown seaweeds for fucoidan extraction and beach-cast harvest for alginates, fertilisers, and feeds for agriculture. New aquaculture initiatives include integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, offshore kelp mariculture and Asparagopsis cultivation for bioactive products to reduce methane emissions in ruminants, as and the development of unexploited species including Caulerpa spp. for food.


Publication title

Botanica Marina








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Walter De Gruyter & Co

Place of publication

Genthiner Strasse 13, Berlin, Germany, D-10785

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine systems and management not elsewhere classified