How scientists are working to restore the world’s embattled kelp forests

The world’s kelp forests grow along more than one-quarter of all seacoasts

Kelp forests are one of the most extensive marine life plant habitats on Earth. Image: Unsplash/Shane Stagner

Elizabeth Devitt
Science writer, Freelancer
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Kelp forests complex ecosystems Bull kelp underwater.
Kelp forests are very dynamic, productive, complex ecosystems. Pictured: Bull kelp underwater. Image: Dan Hershman via Flickr

Seaweed farm formations, Xiapu, China kelp forest
Increasing interest in farmed kelp could benefit wild kelp as scientists research what helps kelp species thrive. Image: Alex Berger via Flickr
kelp forest Lessonia trabeculata
Lessonia trabeculata is common along the coastline of Chile where brown algae is part of the world’s largest wild kelp harvesting operation. Image: Dick Culbert from Gibsons via Wikimedia Commons

Marine scientist Aaron Eger dives into a vibrant kelp forest of Ecklonia radiata.
Marine scientist Aaron Eger dives into a vibrant kelp forest of Ecklonia radiata. Image: Aaron Eger
Kelp forest restoration methods Cayne Layton marine ecologist University of Tasmania Hobart
Kelp forest restoration methods are often labor intense. Image: Cayne Layton
Map of bull kelp forests along shorelines in South Puget Sound between 1873 and 2018.
Bull kelp forest sites in southern Puget Sound are seeing significant ongoing decline. Image: Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
The process of spore release and culturing of kelp in Cayne Layton’s lab at the University of Tasmania.
Answers to why some kelp survive at higher temperatures may be encoded in bull kelp’s genetic make-up. Image: Cayne Layton
bull kelp gametophyte kelp forest
The impact of temperature and nitrate levels on bull kelp gametophytes is hard to study in nature as the kelp live on ocean bottoms. Image: Brooke Weigel

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Purple sea urchins underwater kelp forest restoration pollution
Successful kelp forest restoration requires strategies to remove key stressors, such as too many sea urchins, pollution, sedimentation and over-harvesting. Image: Ed Bierman via Flickr
Kelp forests underwater.
In a lot of circumstances kelp forest loss is caused by the human-induced degradation of the marine environment. Image: Karen Filbee-Dexter (A), Thomas Wernberg (B), Stein Fredriksen (C)
The ideal recipe for kelp forest restoration with green gravel
The ideal recipe for kelp forest restoration with green gravel: (A) Collect fertile plants from wild kelp; (B) Isolate reproductive tissue (sorus) to get zoospores; (C) Add spore solution to small rocks in trays; (D) Wait several weeks for small sporophytes to appear; (E) Scatter green gravel on a reef; (F) Watch the baby kelp grow. Image: Henning Steen, Institute of Marine Research, Norway
Underwater kelp forest seaweed farming of Eucheuma in the Philippines
Increasing interest in farmed kelp could benefit wild kelp as scientists pursue fundamental knowledge about what helps kelp species thrive. Image: Derek Keats via Wikimedia Commons
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Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) healthy kelp forest ecosystem biodoversity
More data is needed to determine the biodiversity that comprises a healthy kelp forest ecosystem. Image: Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA, Flickr
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Related topics:
OceanSDG 14: Life Below WaterNature and Biodiversity
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