El Niño and Giant Kelp Loss in San Diego, CA
A: One of our main goals is to try to determine if the lack of recovery of giant kelp in north La Jolla is due to the residual effects of the last El Niño event or some other change to the environment that no longer supports kelp recruitment and growth. There was a large die-back of giant kelp associated with the warm water and low nutrient conditions that were characteristic of the 2015 El Niño event. While kelp has recovered in many locations, north La Jolla is still largely devoid of kelp. Is this due to a lack of “seed” supply or some other changes that have occurred at these sites? To address these questions, we will track changes in the La Jolla kelp forest over time, spanning several sites from the north to the south, determine if some populations are more thermally tolerant than others using lab experiments, and explore restoration potential at key sites using outplants of juvenile giant kelp individuals.
A: We are specifically focused on doing kelp restoration research. We are also working in a system where the cause of kelp loss was not due to a sea urchin outbreak. Here we will explore if there are individuals/population of giant kelp that can survive warmer waters than others. If we do find thermal tolerance, we will use these individuals to conduct experimental restoration outplants. Further, we will test the differential success of different outplant methods to optimize approaches for performing restoration in future efforts.
A: I don’t have reason to believe this is the case, at least for Macrocystis pyrifera. It all depends on the specific conditions, though. If a thermocline persists, it may be fine in deeper water.
Q: What is your hope in being able to provide tools for communities to restore their local kelp forests?
A: We hope to develop some simple techniques that could be transferred to other stakeholders/community members for use in future restoration activities.
Here's a big SeaTrees thank you to Dr. Jen Smith for chatting with us and shedding light on the potential challenges and opportunities presented by this new kelp restoration science project. We look forward to our ongoing collaboration to safeguard and restore these vital marine ecosystems. To learn more about this project, check out the video below!