The Harvest of Marine-derived Cosmetic Ingredients: A Case Study of Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae

Aug 1, 2011 | Contact Author | By: Nava Dayan, PhD, and Albert Babik, Lipo Chemicals Inc.; Tim Higgs; and Howard R. Lasker, PhD, University at Buffalo
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Title: The Harvest of Marine-derived Cosmetic Ingredients: A Case Study of Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae
coral reefsx ecosystemx Pseudopterogorgia elisabethaex zooxanthellaex
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Keywords: coral reefs | ecosystem | Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae | zooxanthellae

Abstract: This paper reviews the knowledge and nature of the harvest practices for the octocoral Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae. P. elisabethae extract has been used for nearly two decades in cosmetics and preparations for skin benefits, and a review of the harvest provides product developers with an interesting case study of the harvest of a marine resource.

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N Dayan, A Babic and T Higgs, The Harvest of Marine-derived Cosmetic Ingredients: A Case Study of Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae, Cosm & Toil 126(8) (2011)

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Editor’s note: With the continuing trend for sustainable sourcing in cosmetics R&D, the following article offers a case study on the research conducted for and harvest methods of a particular marine-derived cosmetic ingredient, Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae. While less technical in nature than typical Cosmetics & Toiletries articles, it is intended to provide insight into one sustainability model to assist product developers following this path.

Coral reefs are one of the oldest and most biologically diverse eco- systems on earth. They support hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species, protect coastlines, provide food and form the basis of local economies for millions of people. The annual net benefit of coral reefs is more than US$1 billion in the United States, and their estimated value globally is US $30 billion.1 Unfortunately, coral reefs are sensitive ecosystems. A combination of direct and indirect anthropogenic effects in concert with natural events has led to decades of decline in reef health. As much as 70% of the world’s coral reefs may be lost by 2050.2

Human interference with coral reefs has been both direct and indirect. Overfishing, destructive fishing techniques, pollution, introductions of invasive species and land use policies that affect coastal water quality have all had adverse effects on reefs. On a larger scale, long-term changes in water temperature and ocean acidity are affecting and will continue to affect coral reefs. Moreover, the effects of natural events, such as hurricane damage and disease outbreaks may be amplified on reefs that have weakened ecosystems. Some of these effects are chronic and cumulative, while others only appear when a critical breaking point is reached. For example, large fleshy macro algae have always been a constituent of coral reef communities, but they have reached high abundances on many reefs, and the algae interfere with the survival and growth of corals and may have altered the long-term survival of coral reef communities.

The complexity of coral reef ecosystems, the diverse array of threats affecting reefs and the limited information on them makes it difficult to measure the effect of a single threat or event, but it is clear that the persistence of coral reefs will require careful management of direct human interactions with reef ecosystems as well as changes in global scale practices that affect climate change.

A significant component of the value of reef ecosystems is that they are the source of a variety of extractable resources. The development or maintenance of sustainable practices for the harvesting of those resources is equally important to reef health. The aim of this paper is to review the harvest practices carried out by these authors as associated with the utilization of the octocoral Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae, and to discuss the harvest, knowledge and nature of research required to ensure the sustainability of the species.

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Figure 1. A harvested P. elisabethae colony; new growth of the colony usually initiates on the remaining intact branches—see arrow mark of pre-cut branch.

Figure 1. A harvested <em>P. elisabethae</em> colony; new growth of the colony usually initiates on the remaining intact branches—see arrow mark of pre-cut branch.

P. elisabethae are commonly 30–60 cm in height, and the harvesters prune colonies to leave branches that are approximately 8 cm tall or higher and contain at least six branches to ensure re-growth (see Figure 1).

Figure 2. Sea whip re-growth

Figure 2. Sea whip re-growth

Branches in white show the appearance of sea whip after it was pruned in September 1997; the full size demonstrates re-growth through March 1999—Note: Grid lines are at 10 cm intervals.

Figure 3. Relative amounts pruned at a single location did not change across three harvests, nor was the harvest yield affected by hurricanes in 1999 and 2004.

Figure 3. Relative amounts pruned at a single location did not change across three harvests, nor was the harvest yield affected by hurricanes in 1999 and 2004.

Commercial harvests were conducted in 1997, 2001 and 2005 (see Figure 3 and 4).

Figure 4. Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae colonies

Figure 4. <em>Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae</em> colonies

a) showing re-growth after an initial harvest in 2005; the white line denotes the height at which the colonies had been cut. Branches showing no sign of the harvest were probably below the line at the time of harvest. The small colony to the left of the clipped colony in b) likely developed from recruits that had settled since the last harvest.

Footnotes (CT1108 Dayan)

a Gorgonian Extract BG (INCI: Butylene Glycol (and) Sea Whip Extract) and Gorgonian Exract GC (INCI: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (and) Sea Whip Extract) are both products of Lipo Chemicals Inc., Paterson, NJ USA.

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