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Kelp forests in the temperate regions support complex food webs and provide key ecosystem services to marine habitats. Kelp forests are known to provide habitat for invertebrates, fish, and marine mammals. Over the past century kelp forest cover has declined and is continuing to decline due to a variety of factors such as changing sea surface temperature and grazing by sea urchins.
Kelp Research in Clayoquot Sound
Through this research program we propose to compare current and historical kelp distributions and evaluate if these declines in kelp are affecting benthic marine invertebrates. We will compare the changes in kelp distributions by comparing beds from historical photos to current mapping. We will then do underwater surveys via SCUBA to determine the benthic invertebrates inhabiting existing kelp beds and comparing those communities to areas where kelp beds have previously existed. With this information we hope to more fully understand the integral role of canopy forming kelps in Clayoquot Sound and what effects if any the decline in the abundance of canopy forming kelp might have.
The goal of our research is to better understand the role that the two canopy forming kelps (Nereocystis luetkeana and Macrocystis pyrifera) play in structuring invertebrate communities in Clayoquot Sound.
Specifically we are asking:
1. How has the spatial distribution and density of kelp beds changed over time?
2. Are there differences in invertebrate communities inhabiting historical kelps beds, which have since disappeared, as compared to beds which are currently in existence?
This project is funded in part by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.