- If society collapses due to nuclear war, survivors could rely on resilient seaweed, according to a recent Earth's Future study. Seaweed's ability to grow rapidly in diverse conditions makes it a promising food source, even in a nuclear winter.
- The study suggests that within nine to 14 months, seaweed could significantly contribute to global food security. Using a global simulation based on red seaweed, researchers calculated its growth rate in conditions similar to those expected after a nuclear war.
How would nuclear winter affect life as we know it?
As per scientists, the described situations might release large particles into the upper atmosphere, which would subsequently reduce the sunlight reaching the Earth's surface.
It wouldn't just impact the global climate, but during a nuclear winter, temperatures could potentially decrease by as much as 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
The study points out that historical and paleo records indicate that significant volcanic eruptions have led to global average temperature reductions around 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit, with even greater drops on land and in the Northern Hemisphere. These temperature changes have been linked to famines, disease outbreaks, political instability, and changes in regimes.
In the event of an "all-out war" between the U.S. and Russia, the study suggests that global agriculture could potentially decrease by 90% in the worst year due to reduced sunlight, temperature, and precipitation.
However, the study adds some qualifications to this estimate. It states that the ultimate impact on the food system relies heavily on the continuation of global trade and the scale of the war. The study also notes significant regional differences, with some areas, like Australia, possibly still able to produce food even in extreme scenarios.
Why is seaweed a good candidate for the apocalypse?
The reason seaweed is considered beneficial in such scenarios is that it doesn't demand advanced technology for cultivation, and it has a rapid growth rate.
Researchers emphasize that the world is not adequately prepared for a scenario involving reduced sunlight. Wheat is presently the most widely stored food, but global reserves would only suffice for a few months, necessitating the identification of alternative food sources.
The study emphasizes the importance of finding alternative foods that can consistently yield crops over several years, even under conditions of reduced sunlight and lower temperatures. Some potential alternatives, such as greenhouse crop production and synthetic fat from petroleum, are in the early stages of development.
According to the study, seaweed stands out as a resilient food source that can be cultivated in "low-tech" environments. It not only grows rapidly but also adapts to various climates and conditions.
Seaweed as part of the global food supply
Within a span of nine to 14 months, the seaweed discussed in the study could play a substantial role in enhancing global food security, potentially supplying 45% of the world's food, according to the research.
The study points out that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been underscoring the significance of seaweed as a valuable addition to the global food supply for many years.
The organization identifies three factors driving the growing interest in "seaweed utilization."
1. Seaweed is a nutrient powerhouse, containing essential minerals like iron, calcium, iodine, potassium, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and B-12.
2. It is an environmentally friendly option, as seaweed is sustainable and does not require fertilizers, contribute to land degradation, or contribute to deforestation.
3. The versatility of seaweed shines through its applications in diverse industries, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, and animal feed.
How would nuclear winter affect seaweed growth?
The study highlights two key findings regarding seaweed:
1. The growth rate of sea weed is directly linked to the severity of nuclear war; it grows more rapidly under more extreme conditions.
2. Seaweed exhibits its fastest growth during the initial years of 10 years, reaching its peak after the second year and gradually slowing down over time. This result might seem counterintuitive given the expectation of limited growth in more climate-impacted conditions.
The study explains that this phenomenon is due to the primary factor affecting sea weed growth being the lack of nutrients, rather than temperature or light.
While the ocean surface is generally nutrient-poor, a nuclear war disrupts global ocean circulation patterns, bringing nutrients to the surface and promoting seaweed growth.
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