Wednesday June 7, 2023

Marin Independent Journal

Alarmed by the rapid loss of the bull kelp forests along the northern California coast in the past decade, researchers are hoping to unlock the key to reviving the vibrant underwater ecosystems along the coast of Marin and Sonoma counties.

Nearly 90% of bull kelp forests on the coasts from Marin to Mendocino County are estimated to have been lost since 2014, according to the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The losses all occurred within the 3,300-square-mile sanctuary.

The significant decline has been attributed to a combination of factors in the 2010s. A marine heat wave coupled with El Nino weather patterns resulted in unusually warm water, preventing the growth and nutrient availability for the kelp. At the same time, a wasting disease decimated sea stars, allowing sea urchin populations to explode unchecked and devour kelp forests, converting them into urchin barrens.

“To see such a decline of an important habitat in a national marine sanctuary is something that should definitely be turning heads,” said Rietta Hohman, restoration project manager with the Greater Farallones Association. “They’re such special places.”

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