Kelp Protection and Recovery
The large brown algae commonly known as ‘kelp’ provide habitat to a variety of species in Puget Sound, and are considered critical habitat warranting protection. Kelp, like eelgrass, provides food, shade, and other valuable ecosystem services.
Conspicuous declines in the abundance of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), the most common canopy-forming species in Puget Sound, have been observed in many areas. The cause is likely a number of factors, including stormwater impacts, sedimentation, and competitive interactions. Little information on abundance, or changes over time, is available in the Northwest Straits region. And much remains unknown about the understory kelp species.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
The Commission launched a regional survey of bull kelp (Nereocystis) beds using a kayak-based survey protocol developed in 2014. Six MRCs recruited volunteers and piloted this project, and the Commission compiled the data and created a regional kelp database. A volunteer pilot photographed project sites in four counties, providing baseline aerial data on the extent of kelp.
In December 2015, the Commission convened a workshop to identify changes needed to finalize the protocol for future surveys. The protocol was also added to the PSEMP Nearshore Monitoring Toolbox. As the dataset becomes more robust, it will serve to improve our understanding of kelp abundance in the Northwest Straits region.
Our science advisory committee and partners from natural resource agencies are instrumental in the success of this project.
HOW WE’RE DOING IT
Recognizing the multitude of kelp monitoring and restoration efforts on the West Coast, the Commission has established the Salish Sea International Kelp Alliance. The Kelp Alliance is a new project of the Commission; an outcome of the kelp monitoring session in which Ginny presented at the 2014 Salish Sea conference.
The group is one way to coalesce momentum among people involved in protecting and restoring kelp on both sides of the US-Canada border. In partnership with interested MRCs, we aim to:
- Monitor changes in local kelp populations
- Foster awareness about the ecological and cultural importance of kelp
- Promote citizen science contributions to regional research
- Provide a forum for exchanging relevant information and idea
Charter members are the Puget Sound Restoration Fund; Helen Berry, WA Dept. of Natural Resources; Help the Kelp; Mayne Island Conservancy Society; and Tom Mumford, Marine Agronomics, Northwest Straits Foundation.
Kelp Project Fact Sheet
Fact sheet about the work of the Northwest Straits Commission on kelp in Puget Sound.
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Kelp Story Map
A Story Map describing kayak-based surveys of bull kelp beds. Volunteers from 6 MRCs piloted the project.
View the Project Details »