Newly discovered ‘Super Kelp’ shows some amazing promise for mitigating climate change.
Kelp is the largest and fastest-growing algae on the planet. Entire kelp forests exist underwater, providing food and shelter for millions of animals.
These are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world; think underwater rainforests.
Kelp forests also remove a massive amount of carbon dioxide (C02) from the atmosphere.
When we burn fossil fuels, we release greenhouse gases like C02 into the atmosphere. These gases act like a blanket around the planet.
Too much carbon dioxide = Too thick a blanket = Warming temperatures.
So, more kelp would help solve the problem, right?
Definitely. The problem is that climate change is killing the crap out of our kelp forests.
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According to National Geographic, climate change is destroying our kelp forests; more than 90% of them are completely gone in some locations.
The good news is that scientists have recognized the problem, and many organizations are innovating ways to fight back.
Cayne Layton, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, is making some real progress.
He’s identified populations of kelp that have survived in areas where 95% of the surrounding kelp has died.
Layton calls the survivors ‘super kelp.’ His research suggests that the super kelp are more resilient to the effects of climate change due to natural variations and mutations.
Right now, he and his team are growing thousands of super kelps in coastal nurseries. If successful, his research will pave the way for underwater kelp reforestation projects.
The Bay Foundation has also made significant progress with Santa Monica Bay kelp forests by simply removing sea urchins.
Urchins have a voracious appetite for such a tiny critter, and their populations have skyrocketed due to the decline of sea otters, their biggest predator.
And Sustainable Surf has launched a program that allows people to affordably invest in kelp reforestation projects.
Scientists believe that kelp forests can store more carbon than salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses combined.
Working to understand and save them has become the life work of many scientists around the world.