Kelp is a collective name for several strands of seaweed and algae that grow on the ocean floor. With the capability to grow up to 45 metres these dense underwater ‘rainforests’ provide marine life with a hotspot to thrive. The thick distribution of leaves creates a hiding spot for several smaller animals to protect themselves and their offspring. A kelp forest can host numerous kinds of sea plants, fish, crustaceans which creates a self-sustaining, biodiverse ecosystem.
Kelp provides nature with a thriving ecosystem underwater, but there are a lot more interesting things about kelp. Kelp is one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, in optimal conditions it can reach its full potential growth in just 75 days! As kelp does not have to fight gravity like its counterparts on land, it therefore needs a smaller surface area to grow into maturity. Moreover, different species of kelp can grow in oceans all over the world as long as the water temperature is below 20 degrees celsius.
Kelp provides a protective wall around the coasts of our world. Waves can erode coasts and coastal areas, causing floods to happen more frequently. However, kelp can help to dampen the effects of storms and floods in a similar way trees do. Its flexible branches can break waves and lessen the force of the tides on coasts.
Lastly, kelp stores carbon dioxide through photosynthesis in the same way a tree does. If the kelp dies and is transported to the deep-sea sediments, they can become one of the most important ocean based carbon storages also known as ‘blue’ carbon. The presence of humans on the ocean floor is close to non-existent, which lowers the risk of the carbon being released again in a short-term. The exact quantity and longevity of carbon sequestration by kelp forest is still being studied, but this should definitely not keep us from planting a lot of kelp already!
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