Dr. Jane Watson, UBC Adjunct Professor and VIU Professor speaks on the kelp forest’s importance and its ecosystem.
Kelp creates dense marine forests that are equivalent to a terrestrial rainforest in its ability to provide habitat for hundreds of species and thousands of individuals, as well as its ability to take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, from it, produce oxygen. In addition, kelp beds provide a buffer that protects the shoreline during strong, winter storms.
On the East coast of Vancouver Island, Bull kelp, Nereocystis leutkeana, is the predominant species; with Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, forming large beds on the West coast.
Located at the base of the Bull kelp is a root-like holdfast that attaches the plant to the rocky bottom. The stem-like stipe reaches to the surface and grows up to 36 m (118′) in one season. At the top, is a bulb-like feature contains gases that allows it to float. Extending from this bulb are many, long blades that produce and release spores (sori) for the reproduction of the plant.
Like an annual plant in the garden, Bull kelp lives for only one season and is washed away following the release of its sori during heavy winter storms. It can be found on our local shores with other seaweeds providing valuable habitat for shoreline invertebrates and birds, and releasing nutrients back into the waters to support future generations of plants and animals.
NCES has been trying various methods of restoration over the last several years, receiving advice from renowned kelp specialists, Dr. Louis Druehl (Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University; owner Canadian Kelp Resources Ltd.) and Dr. Tom Mumford (Professor U. of Washington, Friday Harbor Labs). Another resource is Brian Allen with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, who have a Bull kelp restoration project in their area of Puget Sound.
We began a partnership with Rob and Amanda Zielinski of Hornby Island Diving and, for the last three years, we have been threading seeded kelp lines onto a grid-style planting structure at Maude Reef located at the South end of Hornby Island. Our seed comes from a thriving kelp forest along Quadra Island across from Campbell River.
We have been collecting data from the site, and will be increasing the type of data we collect to begin determining what has been causing the decline in the abundance and health of these beds in the Strait of Georgia, especially in the central area where it once thrived in large forests.
Some of the data will be collected by divers and we are endeavouring to partner with a University Postgraduate Researcher for long-term data analysis.
Other Restoration Groups:
Help the Kelp is a citizen science Bull kelp project on Gabriola Island, mapping and trying new planting methods around their island. Gabriola Island is located East of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.