Planting underwater forests on the Sunshine Coast

By Jennifer McMillan 12 October 2023

A team of scientists are calling on volunteers to help restore seaweed forests.

From food sources to bioplastics, research and innovation, and even mitigating methane emissions from cow burps, could seaweed be the answer to some of our environmental problems? Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 10 per cent if we could grow enough seaweed to feed every cow. Seaweed offers numerous advantages, but their forests are declining due to multiple human activities.  

Much like trees are essential on land, seaweed creates extensive underwater ecosystems that serve as the foundation for coastal food webs, while they quietly absorb atmospheric carbon and generate oxygen.  

There has been a significant loss of seaweed in the reefs off the Sunshine Coast since the 1980s. Doctor Alexandra Campbell, a senior bioscience lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast, says the decline of these reefs is likely linked to urbanisation and ocean warming. This is bad news for anyone who enjoys the ocean and the benefits it provides. If seaweed forests disappear, all the critters that depend on them will vanish too. This has prompted action to rejuvenate the reefs.  

Led by Doctor Alexandra Campbell, a team of researchers and citizen scientists are working to restore subtropical seaweed forests in the region.  

The UniSC Seaweed Research Group, which includes more than 30 academics, students and technical staff, will hold a restoration day at Alexandra Headland on 21 October from 10am – 2pm.  

If you’re passionate about the marine environment and interested in becoming a citizen scientist, join the Seaweed Squad.  

Jennifer McMillan
Jen worked as a vet nurse while studying environmental science and completing her master's degree in Journalism. She loves bushwalking, storytelling, caring for baby animals, Australian birds and river red gums. Jen works on the National Tree Day campaign and Planet Ark's Seedling Bank.