Fucus distichus

 
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Fucus distichus

Seaweeds are plant-like organisms that are at the base of the Arctic food chain. Seaweeds photosynthesize, turning the sun’s energy into food and oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment. Humans use seawood in their daily lives as it can be found in food, medicine, paint, cosmetics, toiletries and other common everyday products.

Image: Fucus distichus preserved at the Canadian Museum of Nature

 
3D View: Fucus distichus
 
 
A satellite image of an Arctic landmass highlighting where Fucus distichus is found along its coastal waters.

Why this species is important

Fucus distichus (its scientific name) is a common brown seaweed found growing on shorelines across the circumpolar Arctic. This type of seaweed can be used as a food source for the Inuit when meat or other plants are not available.

 

Climate change

Fucus distichus is known for its ability to survive in cold waters. As such, it has been able to maintain its habitat against other encroaching species and can dominate in areas where other plants would not survive cold temperatures.

As the climate changes and water temperatures are expected to increase, competing plants may be able to move north and outcompete Fucus distichus. As this plant provides habitat for many other species, scientists do not know what the impacts of this competition will be on the Arctic food web.

This illustration depicts the planet's air temperature and how it is expected to change over a 90 year period. Sliding the scale from left (2000) to right (2090), the air temperature increases.  As the climate warms the average air temperature will rise by at least 12°C.

A map showing an increase in air temperature by 12C between the years 2000 and 2090.
 
2090 (*projected air temperature)
2000 (air temperature)
 
 

A cold advantage

 

Fucus distichus can tolerate freezing, and exposure to air, which gives it a great advantage during cold Arctic weather.

 

A sturdy structure

 

Fucus distichus contains a holdfast, which is a root-like structure that allows it to attach to a rock and protect itself from severe waves. This also creates a comfortable habitat where smaller organisms can shelter themselves from severe weather and larger predators.

 

Protection from the sun

 

Fucus distichus contains tannins (binding compounds of organic matter), which protect it from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. These tannins could one day come in handy as ultraviolet light levels change across the Arctic.