Seaweed for reindeer

Seaweed for Reindeers

I keep putting it out there that seaweed is everywhere and for everyone - but I didn't think that my next blog would be about seaweed and reindeer at Christmas.

Eight years ago I authored a science paper with my oyster and mollusc friends Dr. Ana Rubio and Dr. Lisa Kirkendale. In the book Climate Change and the Oceans we wrote about Climate Change and Marine Living Resources and how ecosystems will change and how things will adapt. We discussed examples of lost productivity, reduced growth and increased death rates of species, impacts on nursery production, changing temperature zones, fish and seaweed species that need to migrate to adapt, as well as a lack of feed for fish. However, the latest research is showing that reindeer, that normally use seaweed as a part of a healthy diet, are increasingly turning to the shores for their food as an adaptation to climate change. This is because when the winter snow is wetter and freezes to impenetrable ice, they cannot get the to grasses and lichens underneath. So they are turning to the coast and increasing their seaweed intake. 

Reindeers eating seaweed and the regularity of their beach visits during warming times. Source: Hansen et al. 2019

Lucky that reindeer have seaweed to get them through, I hear you say. This is true and an essential part of their diets. However too much of a good thing, including seaweed species that are very high in iodine can be too much. We recommend that a target of 10% seaweed in our diets is good for the planet and good for us (as long as it isn't seaweed with too much iodine), but that is enough. Like with all essential nutrition from salt to water and avocados. You can eat too much of a good thing. A diverse diet is best, and a bit of seaweed everyday is our mission. That is why we use seaweed species in everyday food  that we know are well balanced and contribute to lifelong wellness.

Thank you seaweed for keeping our reindeer going through tough times, but let's hope that the carbon capture efficiency of seaweeds can also help to turn climate change around, so that the reindeer can return to a more diverse salad in the future.