Restoring Kelp around Palos Verdes

Recently Cara Santa Maria covered the restoration of kelp forests and kelp forest ecology for KCET. Interesting work by the Santa Monica Bay Foundation. Check out the video below!

Squid Love Giant Kelp!

Here over at Floating Forests, we’re constantly talking about how much we love kelp. And now, in this month’s issue of Polar Research we find another example of organisms who love Giant Kelp – definitely more than us.

Squid mommas.

In this this great piece by Rosenfeld et al., show that the Patagonian squid Doryteuthis (Amerigo) gahi use giant kelp in Chile and Argentina as a place to lay their eggs. It’s the first evidence of this happening in the Magellanic channels of the sub-Antarctic. This happens in the Falkland Islands, too on both Giant Kelp and the subcanopy kelp Lessonia. But not in places like, say, California.

Squid eggs on kelp! From Rosenfeld et al.'s paper.

Squid eggs on kelp! From Rosenfeld et al.’s paper.

It’s a cool story, and Resenfeld et al. provide some great pictures! Check it out. And know that be love of kelp knows no species bounds!

Rosenfeld, S., J. Ojeda, M. Hüne, and A. Mansilla. 2014. Egg masses of the Patagonian squid (Doryteuthis Amerigo gahi) attached to giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) in the sub-Antarctic ecoregion. Polar Research. 10.3402/polar.v33.21636

Chilean Kelp & Floating Forest Scientists

One of the fun things about the FF project is that the science team is distributed all over the world – from Portugal to Boston to Santa Barbara to Chile. Recently, I got to go and work with Alejandro on some analyses of kelp removals on fish, and he took me out for a dive at his field site. It’s not giant kelp (that’s further south in Chile – and you’ll be seeing those images soon!) but Lessonia forms these awesome underwater forests that look like a bonsai Macrocystis forest. Ale shot some video of out explorations around an area that had been subjected to some strong snail herbivory, so I thought I’d share it with y’all.

Floating Forests at Western Society of Naturalists 2014!

octopus_shirt_back_small.241163727_stdHi All,

Kyle, Alison, and I are just back from the annual meeting of the Western Society of Naturalists where we presented our progress with Floating Forests. The meeting took place in downtown Tacoma, Washington with over 500 marine ecologists, naturalists, and students in attendance.


We had some exciting discussions about the project at the poster session and the prospects of global coverage of kelp forest canopy dynamics has the potential to aid in the research of many scientists. Please click on the link below to download a high resolution copy of the poster.

Click Here for a Hi-Res Floating Forests Poster!

Great job everyone!

Color Corrected Images Back!

Welcome back to Floating Forests! We’ve had a few snafus that have been lowering the image quality that folk have mentioned, and we’ve got them locked down! What issues, some of you might be saying? During an image upload, something got snagged in the color translation, so images were coming out looking dark and red. Some users (thanks, artman40!) were quite skilled at seeing the kelp anyway. Hats off to you!

Yeah, that's not an easy one. Interestingly, if you selected the image area, the scene pops out clearly.

Yeah, that’s not an easy one. Interestingly, if you selected the image area, the scene pops out clearly.

We’re actually kind of excited about this, as it will give us a second validation dataset so we can really calibrate user views of images under different conditions. Some of the images that we have up there have been previously been viewed by research assistants (undergrads) at UC Santa Barbara. Part of our analysis of the data involves calibrating against any noise of different viewers looking at the same image. Now we’ll have three different classifications types for a set of the images – undergrad RAs, Floating Forest users, and Floating Forest users with a color-skewed dataset. It’s going to help us reduce error of estimation of kelp bed size and get better quality data in the end as we build better models of the data. There’s actually a nice article on just this topic in last month’s issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution (one of my favorite journals!) (what, don’t look at me that way, I’m a scientist!)

A number of folk have asked us about the color skewing, and also asked us about the algorithm we use to select images. Stay tuned, as we’re working with Zooniverse to release the code they use to select images, and then anyone who is interested in having at it – either for their own applications (say, spotting coral reefs in the tropics, and needing to subset out only coastal images) or who is interested in trying to make our process better (and reduce the number of land images while not losing coastline images). We’d love to collaborate with more folk out there!

Evaluating mutualism between fish and large brown macroalgae

We just finished a three year project in which we developed a series of mensurative and manipulative experiments on different sites along the Central-Northern Coast of Chile. Study sites on the project where selected under different parameters such as open access areas (meaning that anyone can go and get fish and seafood) and protected areas called areas of management and exploitation of benthic resources (AMEBRs) where there are fishermen who care for benthic resources and only they can catch them. To measure the state of kelp forest and the relationship between the brown seaweed and fish, 4 scientific divers with various tasks recorded and monitored kelp forests of these sites twice a year for three years.

a) kelp in good condition in MEABRs and b) in open access for fishing sites. Photos A. Pérez-Matus

a) kelp in good condition in MEABRs and b) in open access for fishing sites. Photos A. Pérez-Matus

The results obtained by these divers were very interesting, the AMERBs sites have more adult and juvenile brown macroalgae per unit of area, and adult plants are larger, because they have more foliage. At these sites there is also a greater number and biomass of fish, all in comparison with the forest of brown macroalgae of free access sites for fisheries. Free access sites had a higher number of grazers like sea urchins and snails and small herbivores that eat brown macroalgae. To evaluate these results in field, experiments where set up to estimate the growth of the blades of brown macroalgae Lessonia trabeculata (see figure 1a) in the presence and absence of herbivorous snails measuring over months. The seaweed in the presence of this snail not only stopped growing, but also declined (see figure 1b). The next step was to experiment in the laboratory the feeding behavior of the herbivores in the presence and absence of potential predators (fish) for this aquarium with herbivores and macroalgal tissues were used. The experiment showed that snails fed less in the presence of fish. The mere presence of fish caused snails to climb to the top of the aquarium and spend more time there. Then it was confirmed that fish generate indirect positive effects on the brown macro algae.

Other positive direct effects of fish on brown macroalgae were also evaluated. In the laboratory, it was confirmed that in the presence of fish and filter feeders such as mussels, macroalgae are kept in better condition. They do not lose their blades (leaves) and grow faster than seaweed that only had the presence of filter feeders. The nutrients that fish generate as particulate organic material are dissolved by the filtering procedure of mussel then are used by macroalgae. It turned out that the seaweed benefits from the nutrients provided by the fish and accelerate their growth.

Figure showing the experiments herbivory on reproductive tissue of the kelp Lessonia tabeculata by the herbivore “jerguilla”, Aplodactylus punctatus: a) experimental mesocosms; b) delivered algae as food; c) indicates consumption and bites by adults jerguillas. Pictures from Catalina Ruz.

Figure showing the experiments herbivory on reproductive tissue of the kelp Lessonia tabeculata by the herbivore “jerguilla”, Aplodactylus punctatus: a) experimental mesocosms; b) delivered algae as food; c) indicates consumption and bites by adults jerguillas. Photos from Catalina Ruz.

The brown macroalgae generate different services to the fish species, providing habitat for early stages of fish and food indirectly (many fish feed on small crustaceans such as amphipods, gastropods, isopods inhabiting kelp) and directly, as their own tissues are food for herbivorous fish. Herbivorous fish can consume algal reproductive tissues. In these tissues spores live; spores are the seeds of macroalgae. We found that these reproductive tissues that were consumed by fish herbivores may reduce the epiphytic (seaweed on tissues) and chemical load that are produced in these tissues (to deters small herbivores). The seeds of the algae can be released more quickly once passes through the digestive tract of fish and may supply more nutrients for growth. We also found that the seeds are viable and germinated with the same speed as those of reproductive tissue control. Herbivorous fish can be vehicles that disperse seeds macroalgae as these spores have very little mobility (see the photos of the experiments).

This research project may generate different conclusions. One is that as the brown macroalgae are important habitat and food for fish species. The fish in turn provide benefits to macroalgae. The importance of fish is notorious and is expressed at different spatial scales (1 m to km) where the presence of fish and other agents can modify the landscape. We can conclude that in the absence of fish, macroalgae lose their condition (assessed as foliage and growth), which could bring significant consequences for artisanal and recreational fishing. Also, there are no management plans in Chile led to the fish. Considering the importance of these coastal environments, consequences will be negative to kelp ecosystems if limitations for catching reef fish in Chile do not apply.

Floating Forests HOA with Dan Reed

At 4:30pm ET today (Sept 30th) we’ll be having a Google Hangout on air with Dr. Dan Reed of the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER at UCSB. Sign up here and/or stay tuned, as I’ll post the youtube feed once it’s live!

Open Ocean Kelp Forest?

Talk about serendipitous discoveries! Superuser artman40 recently posted an image on the discussion boards with a question, is this kelp out in the middle of the ocean?


The answer is YES! There is a kelp forest located about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, CA, on a seamount known as the Cortez Banks. Many of you may have already heard about this place as it is one of the premier sites for big wave surfing in the world, with waves over 80 ft high! Check out this video:

While this was a surprise for us, spear fishers and sea lions have known about this spot for years! Check out this video where you can clearly see giant kelp:

With this new information we can begin to look more closely at this very unique kelp forest and ask interesting questions like: How often is this forest present? How does kelp get there? How are ocean circulation patterns affecting kelp’s presence and growth?

And we couldn’t have done it without YOU, our awesome citizen scientists! Great job FloatingForests team!

Floating Meadows?

While Floating Forests is focused on canopy forming kelps – typically Giant Kelp, Bull Kelp, Sea Bamboo, and others these are not the only kelp. In New England, for example, kelps are only a few meters tall, and create vast meadows instead of ‘forests’. Take a look at this amazing video by Brian Skerry from Cashes Ledge featuring some great comments from our collaborator, Jon Witman.