A Giant Fight For Climate Change

Could a giant kelp forest in the Great Southern Reef hold the scientific secrets to ocean health?

By Google Arts & Culture

California sea lions swimming in kelp forest (2006)United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

What is kelp?

Although it may look similar, kelp is not a plant - it's a large brown algae or seaweed that thrives in cold, nutrient-rich waters. Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) can grow over 35 meters long and up to 1/2 meter each day!

Distribution of the world's kelp forestsOriginal Source: GRID-Arendal

Kelp is world's biggest marine habitat

Over 750 million people live within 50 km of a kelp forest. Thousands of animal species depend on them for food, shelter, nurseries, medicine, and more.

Seaweed in shallows by Stefan AndrewsOriginal Source: @ocean_imaging

Kelp forests naturally capture CO2

Kelp forests have the ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere faster than trees on land. They exude oxygen and help restore vital nutrients in the ocean. 

Golden kelp forest, New South Wales, AustraliaOriginal Source: Aaron Eger

The world's longest, continuous kelp forest

Australia's Great Southern Reef is an interconnected system of temperate reefs, spanning 8,000km of southern coastline. Although 70% of Australians live within 50 km of it, most don’t know it exists.

Harlequin fish by Scott BennettGreat Southern Reef Foundation

Most of the GSR's species are endemic

The reef boasts some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity on earth. Up to 80% of the reef's species are endemic - meaning they can’t be found anywhere else.

Giant kelp split shot by Stefan AndrewsOriginal Source: @ocean_imaging

Saving Tasmania's invisible forest

In the GSR, off Tasmania's coastline, lies a huge hidden forest of giant kelp. This invisible forest used to be far bigger but due to rising sea temperatures, 95% is now gone. But, not all hope is lost...

Anusuya Willis with Giant Kelp (2023) by Andrew WilsonOriginal Source: Google

A hope spot for ocean health

Local scientists are studying the Giant Kelp genetics of the remaining 5% in a bid to uncover its heat survival secrets - to regrow and replenish the invisible forest and protect the GSR.

Kelp forest and diversOriginal Source: Grant Callegari

Because we can't save what we can't see

The disappearance of kelp has devastating impacts for biodiversity and marine life in the GSR and around the world. We all share one ocean and with climate change taking its toll, it's important we raise awareness to help kelp.

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