Kelp forest facts for kids

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Kelp Forest

Kelp forests are a type of marine ecosystem that is present around colonies of kelp; they contain rich biodiversity.

Kelp can stretch up to 200 feet (60 meters) from their anchors on the sea floor to the surface.

They provide home to many fish and invertebrate species. Kelp forests also often attract mammalian visitors, including whales, sea lions, sea otters, and SCUBA-diving humans.

Kelp forests draw their name from an analogy to forests on land.

They occur worldwide throughout temperate and polar coastal oceans. In 2007, kelp forests were also discovered in tropical waters near Ecuador.

Kelp forests can influence coastal oceanographic patterns and provide many ecosystem services.

However, the influence of humans has often contributed to kelp forest degradation.

Human use

Calliostoma annulatum
The jeweled top snail grazing on a blade of giant kelp

Kelp forests have been important to human existence for thousands of years. Indeed, many now theorise that the first colonisation of the Americas was due to fishing communities following the Pacific kelp forests during the last ice age. One theory is that the kelp forests that would have stretched from northeast Asia to the American Pacific coast would have provided many benefits to ancient boaters. The kelp forests would have provided many sustenance opportunities, as well as acting as a type of buffer from rough water. Besides these benefits, researchers believe that the kelp forests might have helped early boaters navigate, acting as a type of "kelp highway".

Modern economies are based on fisheries of kelp-associated species such as lobster and rock-fish. Humans can also harvest kelp directly to feed aquaculture species such as abalone and to extract the compound alginic acid, which is used in products like toothpaste and antacids. Kelp forests are valued for recreational activities such as SCUBA diving and kayaking.

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