Officials in Texas are harvesting seaweed in the hopes that it might protect the city of Galveston from hurricanes.
The Galveston Park board of trustees agreed this week to spend $140,000 on harvested seaweed that will be used to strengthen sand dunes. The dunes help withstand the impact of hurricanes.
While Galveston used to be one of the biggest booming cities in the United States, a hurricane in 1900 killed 6,000 people and submerged the city underwater. The flood is still considered the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States.
Speaking of the new seaweed supported barrier, Galveston board executive director Kelly de Schaun told the Houston Chronicle:
"It's part of our ecosystem, so any kind of beneficial use we can find for that material would be highly advantageous, both from an environmental and management standpoint, to make sure our beaches are clean and enjoyable for all of our beachgoers."
Securing the sand dunes is an important step in protecting the city of Galveston. Over the years, the natural dunes have eroded, which has made the city more susceptible to storms in the future.
The idea to use sargassum to secure the sand dunes arrives by way of a paper published by Texas A&M University researchers back in 2007.
While the sargassum does not smell very good, it is a strong plant that can grow up to 50 feet in the ocean.
The project is very environmentally sound since the seaweed will simply be gathered as it washes up on the short. The seaweed will be balsed and then pressed into the sand dunes.
The harvested seaweed will also help promote the growth of natural dune vegetation which in turn will have a healthy environmental impact in the area. The seaweed will deteriorate over time and will act as a fertilizer which will allow other vegetation to grown along the Galveston coast.