Well, you can now take heart in the fact that researchers have discovered four entirely new species of marine algae (known as “limu” in Hawaiian culture) here in Hawaiian waters, and at surprising depths. The researchers, who were working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office of National Marine Sanctuaries found the limu species at 200-400 feet down–”depths not typically known for marine algae,” according to a Feb. 2 NOAA press release.
“I was astounded at the abundance and size of these algae, which resembled something you would see in a shallow-water lagoon, not at 400 feet,” said Heather Spalding, Ph.D, a researcher at the University of Hawaii and lead author of a new Journal of Phycology article on the new limu species.
“The species were sampled during surveys between 2013 and 2015 in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument by NOAA divers using advanced SCUBA diving technologies, and during past NOAA expeditions from 2006 to 2014 throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands using submersibles operated by the Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Laboratory,” stated today’s NOAA news release. “Scientists anticipate that many additional new species of algae will be described in the coming years from samples collected by NOAA divers on future expeditions to the monument.”
So that just leaves the big question: Why is this important?
“These findings redefine our understanding of algal distributions in Hawaiʻi, and hint at the great number of other new species that are likely to be discovered in the future from these amazing deep-water reefs,” said Daniel Wagner, the Papahanaumokuakea research specialist with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in the Feb. 2 NOAA news release.
Photo of algae being collected at a depth of 304 feet off West Maui: Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory archives