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Why Kelp

Kelp forests are magical underwater habitats, known to be one of the most productive natural ecosystems on the planet. They are a key asset to naturally combat the effects of climate change and have a positive impact on a wide range of environmental challenges. As the climate crisis intensifies, scientists believe reducing carbon emissions will not be enough to avert a climate disaster, and in fact we will need to find ways to actively remove and hold or ‘sequester’ carbon from the atmosphere to achieve net zero emissions.

Why Kelp

Though it has plant-like features, Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is actually the largest form of brown algae and one of the fastest growing organisms on earth. In optimal conditions, giant kelp can grow 60cm (2ft) per day to reach a height of 45 metres (150 ft) in one growing season.

Giant kelp uses light from the sun to photosynthesize and absorb nutrients and carbon, directly from the water column to grow. The carbon is stored in the kelp’s tissue. Some of this organic carbon becomes sequestered in the deeper layers of the ocean, at time scales of over 100 years. 

Aside from storing carbon in biomass, kelp forests also export detritus (organic matter produced when the kelp begins to decompose or becomes detached) which it is then buried, resulting in carbon storage in the deep sea and locking away the carbon forever. This makes giant kelp forests a crucial carbon sink and one of the most important ecosystems to protect today.

Giant kelp forests also create complex habitats that support diverse communities and ecosystems. The kelp forest can be a shelter, hunting ground and nursery for many species including all types of fish, mammals (like whales, seals and penguins), invertebrates and sea birds. As kelp soaks up carbon dioxide, it reduces the acidity of the surrounding sea water, raising oxygen levels and further improving water conditions to help sea life in the area flourish. Kelp forests provide benefits to humans too, by slowing erosion along our coastlines, providing food and supporting the livelihood of local communities, improving fish stocks and increasing the local marine diversity and ecosystem resilience.

Kelp forests can help stem the tide of climate change effects by preserving and sustaining a biologically rich ecosystem in a significant way, which will benefit our world both now and in the future.