Giant kelp forests represent one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth and are the focus of research at the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER site.
For years, scientists have debated whether nutrient inputs or herbivory more influence the growth of kelp forests. SBC scientists discovered that wave disturbance is the surprising and overwhelming influence on kelp forest growth, which has important implications for how climate change may impact these sensitive and crucial coastal ecosystems.
Kelp plants attach to the rocky bottom with tough holdfasts and grow up towards the surface on strong flexible stipes that are buoyed by gas bladders. When the fast growing fronds reach the surface, they spread horizontally to form the kelp forest canopy. 8/29/2007. (Photo by SBC staff). SBC LTER.