Kelp Forest Restoration in the Salish SeaLatest update February 2, 2019 Started on February 15, 2018
This mission is an attempt to document, understand, and mitigate the losses of kelp forests within the Salish Sea.
Hello, and welcome to all the new followers!
I thought I would make a small post about WHY kelp forests are disappearing within the Salish Sea (Specifically in the Strait of Georgia). I made a simple time series using NASA satellite data showing sea surface temperatures in and around the Salish Sea during June, July, August, and September (See below: from top left to bottom right) of 2018. As you can see, there is a fairly drastic spike in sea surface temperature in August of 2018 within the Straight of Georgia.
The reasons for this are likely to do with water circulations patterns and stratification. But to put it simply, the water on the surface is too hot. When the bull kelp are too hot, they cannot reproduce! Bull kelp is an annual species of kelp, meaning that each individual only lives for about one year. This means that El Nino years like we had a few years back (and may be in for another quite soon) can be terrible for bull kelp forests.
It will be interesting to see, like I mentioned in a previous post, if our transplanted kelp from last year was able to reproduce despite the August temperature spike. It is also possible that the kelp reproduced successfully, but the urchins waiting below ate all the kelp babies..... Hopefully this post sheds a bit more light on the problems that kelp forests are facing.
This is only a single part of the whole story, and we still don't understand all the problems, or how to mitigate against them. However, that is what this expedition is for! Thanks for following and I will update again soon.
Here is a great research note published this past fall on the bull kelp restoration that was done with collaboration from the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute, as well as many others.
I have more behind the scenes information but this is a good start to some of what we've been up to.
This is a the first video taken after transplanting bull kelp onto our kelp lines at the Winchelsea Island site in the Salish Sea. You can see the two different attachment methods which were used, and can read more about the methods in the research note posted on this page.
At the end of the video you will see a school if Pacific herring, which are a vital forage fish for wild Pacific salmon in the area. Bringing bull kelp habitat back to this area will surely mean good things for local herring, as well as salmon populations.
We saw multiple individuals with sori (reproductive spore patches) over the summer/fall but won't know if there was any successful reproduction untill the spring. More to follow!
Over the past few years, areas of the Salish Sea have undergone massive transitions. The seastar wasting disease, which is the largest recorded epizootic event, created a trophic cascade in which once productive kelp forests have been reduced to urchin barrens. Additionally, record breaking temperatures have led to sea surface temperatures that have caused historically dense areas of bull kelp to be unable to reproduce. This expedition has been exploring these factors in order to better understand the impacts of kelp losses in the Salish Sea, and has been working on kelp restoration in selected areas. Future potential goals include: monitoring recovery of the vital urchin predator, the sunflower star; examining the transfer of kelp detritus to deeper environments; and examining the importance of habitat complexity to the associated fish and invertebrate communities of kelp forests.
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