"Globally, kelp grows in forests along the coastlines of every continent except Antarctica; most of these are threatened by climate change, coastal development, pollution, fishing and invasive predators. All of this matters because these ecosystems provide huge benefits.
In Santa Monica Bay, California, conservationists are trying to save local kelp forests from voracious purple urchins, whose population has exploded since a major predator — the sea otter — dramatically declined decades ago. The urchins’ unchecked appetite has contributed to the loss of three-quarters of the bay’s former kelp forest. But fishers are carefully hand-clearing urchins — the draw being that as kelp is restored, fisheries are too. So far they’ve managed to clear 52 acres (21 hectares), which the kelp forest has reclaimed.
“All we had to do is clear the urchins out of the way,” says Tom Ford, executive director of The Bay Foundation, which is leading the effort.
The project’s success has caused others to ponder its carbon sequestration potential, Ford says. The City of Santa Monica recently established a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, and asked The Bay Foundation how kelp restoration could factor into that. A nonprofit called Sustainable Surf has also launched a program enabling people to invest in the kelp restoration project to offset their own carbon footprints."