Major declines in floating kelp abundance are being documented throughout Puget Sound. Kelp forests are a valuable coastal habitat in temperate areas throughout the world. In Washington State, the bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, and the giant kelp, Macrocystis spp., form extensive forests in shallow, rocky habitats. Because of their fast growth rates and large sizes, these kelps are thought to contribute greatly to the productivity of coastal marine ecosystems and as forage and refuge habitat for a diversity of marine life.
Our goal is to reverse declines in canopy kelp forests in Puget Sound and develop viable solutions to recover the essential habitat they provide.
Where has the kelp canopy gone in Puget Sound?
Kelp forests are the carbon factories of estuaries
Kelp grow into massive vegetative structures, that feed numerous species from bacteria to hefty grazers, making kelp forests one of the most productive habitats on the planet. Tiny crustaceans grow on kelp and become prey for many other species, including salmon, forage fish and rockfish. Restoring Puget Sound’s diminishing kelp forests could provide key habitat for species throughout the marine foodweb.
Running the gauntlet
Bull kelp, which resembles long whips with bulbs on the end, is an annual, meaning it starts from scratch every year. Establishing enhancement techniques to restore lost kelp beds is a challenge. It is easy enough to plant kelp and get it to grow, but more difficult to discover ways to restore a persistent population such that the canopy returns each year. We are working to do just this - incubate and deploy techniques that lead to the recovery of persistent bull kelp beds in priority areas in Puget Sound
Experimental kelp outplanting and cultivation
New facilities at the conservation hatchery at NOAA's Manchester Research Station make it possible for PSRF to research bull kelp propagation, genetics, and other questions about Puget Sound kelps and macroalgae. And our kelp lab is the springboard for our in-water tests of enhancement practices.
This film depicts 3 techniques PSRF piloted in 2011-2012 in Port Gamble to rebuild bull kelp forests. We saw some survival but not substantial amounts, so have been taking next steps through integration of what we learn in hatchery with our in-water work. As a core program, we are committed to continuing our kelp research and restoration moving forward.
- Another vital forest at risk: Scientists fear warming water could be killing off Puget Sound’s kelp beds. The Seattle Times, 2019
- Samish tribe helping to study local kelp forests. Skagit Valley Herald, 2019
- Bull Kelp Monitoring in South Puget Sound in 2017 and 2018. Washington Department of Natural Resources, 2019
- Kelp beds and their local effects on seawater chemistry, productivity, and microbial communities. Ecology, 2019
- Salmon, forage fish and kelp. Frontiers EcoPics, 2019
- Kelp continues steady decline in Puget Sound. Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, 2018
- The dynamics of kelp forests in the Northeast Pacific Ocean and the relationship with environmental drivers. Journal of Ecology. 2018
- Food, innovation and resilience in the face of climate change. The Seattle Times, Pacific NW Magazine, 2018
- Kelp beds prove productive for salmon fishing near Freshwater Bay. Peninsula Daily News, 2015
- Bull kelp life cycle poster. PSRF
- Kelp. Puget Sound Science Review