Alta Live: Trouble for California’s Kelp

The Golden State’s kelp forests—complex ecosystems that have been ravaged by climate change—are disappearing.

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Dan Abbott, who was recently interviewed for an Alta Journal weekly newsletter, brought both concerning news about California’s kelp forests and hope for their future to Alta Live. A chain reaction along the Pacific coast has led to the near-loss of one of California’s ocean treasures: its kelp. Change in the ecosystem—namely the shrinking sea star population caused by sea star wasting disease and the sudden warming of ocean water in 2014—has knocked the whole system off balance, causing massive losses of the once-common kelp forest.

“I’m a California kid. The thing I love about this state is its natural beauty. I love the redwoods, I love the Sierra, I love these offshore kelp forests. I really feel like they are a world-class, beautiful place. And you have seen them just disappear,” Abbott told Alta Live. “It was very alarming when it first happened—it still is—and I think all of us scuba divers who are uniquely able to experience these ecosystems were really crushed.” But organizations like Reef Check, which began in 1996, surveying coral reefs, are working to restore the forests. Today, Reef Check trains “citizen scientist” scuba divers to collect data on ocean ecosystems, which can “illuminate and help folks understand this problem, and potentially point to solutions,” Abbott said. And there’s good news. Kelp forests are capable of growing just as fast as they disappeared, provided that conservationists like Abbott and his colleagues find success in their science.

Check out these links to some of the topics Abbott and Beth Spotswood brought up.

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