Washington, May 2 : A new study has determined that bacteria that feed on seaweed could help in accelerating the disposal of pollutants in the world's oceans.
Reported in the International Journal of Biotechnology, the study was carried out by researchers in China and Japan, who pointed out that various species of seaweed are able to extract toxic compounds from seawater.
The researchers took the example of the brown seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida, known as Wakame in Japan, the focus of research in this area for almost a decade.
Wakame can thrive even in the presence of carbon, ammonium, nitrate and phosphate in sea water that would otherwise be lifeless.
However, there remains the problem of how to dispose of planted wakame, once it has feasted on organic and inorganic pollutants in seawater.
Because organic pollutants are absorbed by cultured wakame, cultivated wakame must be treated as a kind of toxic waste rather than a useful byproduct of marine bioremediation.
According to the researchers, there may be a simple solution to the disposal problem.
Natural wakame has been used as a fertilizer since ancient times, they explain, so the composting process could be an effective means of degrading wakame into a useful form and so recycling organic substances containing C, N and P from coastal waters.
The team has now found a highly efficient way to accelerate the composting process in the form of a novel marine bacterium, identified as a Halomonas species and given the label AW4.
Partial DNA analysis helped identify the active species isolated from the seaweeds in Awaji Island, Japan.
The researchers explained that strain AW4 grows well even at high salt (sodium chloride) concentrations and can reduce the total organic components, including pollutant content, of the seaweed significantly within a week.