Endangered Kelp Forests in Tasmania

Not seeing much kelp in the Tasmania images taken in recent years? This may be due to the fact that this region has seen dramatic declines in Giant Kelp (Macrocystis) over the past few decades. This decline has been linked to warming sea temperatures off the east coast of Tasmania. The loss of this critical habitat has been so dramatic that the Australian government has listed the forests as endangered. This is the first time that an entire ecological community has been given this kind of protection.

One major goal of this Zooniverse project is to better document these declines. While SCUBA diving is a great way to see and study kelp forests, divers can’t get everywhere and so there are many places where we don’t know how much kelp has been lost. With your help we can observe the entire coastline of Tasmania! And we will get many views of this coastline each year going back to 1984! So don’t get discouraged if you aren’t seeing kelp in the more recent years. These zeroes are incredibly important data for us. If we start seeing kelp in those same places when we look at images from the 1980s and 1990s then we can measure how much kelp has been lost.

Read more about the Tasmanian kelp declines here and here.


A nutrient starved kelp frond. Photo courtesy of the SBC LTER

3 responses to “Endangered Kelp Forests in Tasmania”

  1. Gregg says :

    It really seems like Floating Forests is using reviewers to validate rejected images by some computer filter. Almost all images are clouds, land, bad-image or a few non-kelp types. Is this true… are we just validating rejected images?


    • kyleccav says :

      No, you all aren’t looking at rejected images. The Landsat images are huge and most of each scene consists of land and open ocean. We have an algorithm to extract the coastal parts of the image, but it is conservative and allows some land and open ocean chunks through. See this post for more details: https://blog.floatingforests.org/2014/08/08/the-image-policing-power-of-the-crowd-or-let-them-see-kelp/

      There will be many clear coastal scenes that don’t have kelp. Kelp forests are highly variable: an area that may have kelp one month can be cleared out by waves or high sea surface temperatures the next month. Also, no one has made an accurate global map of giant kelp before, so we can’t just give you sections of coastline where we know kelp exists. One result of this project will be an accurate global map of giant kelp!


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  1. Tasmania Images Back! | Floating Forests - May 19, 2015

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