Plants form part of the immense natural history collections at the Booth Museum of Natural History, included in these are *seaweeds – some of which are over 100 years old!
These specimens were carefully dried, identified and mounted by the Victorian women who collected them – often forming beautiful delicate displays or arranged in beautiful bound books.
But why keep 100 year old seaweed? It can’t just be because they are beautiful, can it?…Dr Gerald Legg, former Curator of the Booth Museum of Natural History reveals all…
Learn from the past to protect our future
One important value of such collections is to be able to see what was found in the past compared with what is found now. What has been lost and what has been gained. The collections like those of Mary Merrifield, Mrs Leopold Grey and Dr Omerod in the Booth collections contain incredibly detailed notes showing exactly where they were found and the date they were collected.
Data, data, data!
Collecting data of seaweeds over the last century and in more recent decades has helped to provide key information for conservation. In Sussex, data collection like this is helping towards the restoration of a vital marine habitat that was hidden to most people beneath the waves…
In the not distant past **kelps were common along the shore and off the coast of Sussex. Kelp forests can provide important nurseries for fish, can help combat climate change and are a crucial habitat for a host of species.
However, with trawling, dredging and the storm of 1986 much of the dense ‘forests’ have been lost. You no longer get masses of seaweeds washed up on Worthing beach causing a stink and making a useful fertiliser to be collected by farmers and the like…
Sussex Kelp Forest cover 1980
Sussex Kelp Forest cover 2019
What it’s like now
But not all is lost…
Find out how local conservationists and activists are working together to bring the kelp back and allow the forests to regenerate in our Take Action section.
I’d like to finish this blog with a wonderful poem on Kelp by Jeffery Yang
Kelp by Jeffrey Yang
How easy it is to lose oneself
in a kelp forest. Between
canopy leaves, sunlight filters thru
the water surface; nutrients
bring life where there’d other-
wise be barren sea; a vast eco-
system breathes. Each
Dr Gerald Legg, former Curator of the Booth Museum of Natural History
*Kelps include: Oar Weed Laminaria digitata, forest Kelp Laminaria hypoborea, Golden Kelp Laminaria ochroleuca, Sugar Kelp Saccharina latissimi, Furbellows Sacchorhiza polyschides and the alien Wakame Undaria pinnatifida.