Why Help Kelp?

Kelp has been supporting life around the world, from ancient times to modern day. What can we do to ensure its survival?

Bull kelp on the surfaceKelp Forest Alliance

Kelp's historic highway

We know the 'kelp highway' helped human populations expand from Asia in the Americas some 20,000 years ago.

Across the Pacific, kelp harvest has played a significant role in Japanese, Korean and Chinese economies, and has been an important commodity since the 8th Century.

Crayweed forest AustraliaOriginal Source: Justin Gillian

Out of sight, out of mind

For millennia, people living off our ocean's resources have known the value of kelp forests but even to this day, they remain a great example of an overlooked and under-appreciated ecosystem. 

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

From Medieval times...

In Medieval Europe, kelp was used to fertilize soil and increase crop yields, and even treat goiter. For centuries it was also used to fortify building materials.

Strapweed at lowtideKelp Forest Alliance

...to modern day

In the 21st Century, kelp forests have become the main source of alginate - a now common food and medical additive. Kelp's now used to make many products including toothpastes, shampoos, salad dressings, puddings, cakes, dairy products, frozen foods and even pharmaceuticals.

Macrocystis in PatagoniaOriginal Source: Enric Sala

A source of health

Its vast array of known health benefits include aiding healthy nails and blood vessels, reducing hair loss, easing constipation, helping with diabetes and weight management and treating gastrointestinal ulcers.

BC kelp forest and rockfishOriginal Source: Alex Mustard

Helping ecosystems and fisheries thrive

Throughout this entire time, kelps have supported ecosystems teeming with life and important fisheries of abalone, lobsters and many types of fish.

Bull kelp on the Central Coast of BCOriginal Source: Ondine Portier

Fighting climate change

But more than this, through their prolific productivity, kelp forests draw carbon from the atmosphere (known as a 'carbon sink'), exude oxygen, and help reduce nutrient pollution in our oceans - enhancing biodiversity and ultimately helping the planet fight climate change.

Crayweed PlantingOriginal Source: Tom Burd

Although many of the world's kelp forests are in decline - mostly due to rising ocean temperatures - not all hope is lost. There's still time and opportunity for us all to step-up and #HelpTheKelp!

So, what can we do?

Solar Panel

Lower your carbon footprint

Kelp's biggest threat is rising ocean temperatures. One of the best ways to help kelp is to lower how much carbon emissions you put into the air. With just a few small changes, collectively we can bring these down to more sustainable levels.

Peregrinos en bicicleta en Ponte da Áspera, en el Camino Francés (2021)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

How? A simple way is to cut down the amount you drive - by taking public transport or cycling. You could even 'go electric' whether it's your car, stove or using solar at home. Avoiding single-use plastics can also keep high manufacturing emission levels down.

Button:Earth Day (1970) by Horn Co.The Strong National Museum of Play

Take ocean positive actions

Sometimes you might feel you have little influence over global politics but your voice, votes and even small actions can really do a lot to support local change.

Community planting event in Sydney, AustraliaOriginal Source: Jack Brookes

What can you do? Vote for policies in your area that help drive sustainability missions, such as replacing fossil fuels with clean energy or supporting the creation and management of local marine parks.

Measuring Lessonia kelpOriginal Source: Alejandro Perez-Matus

Educate yourself about kelp

Just like you're doing now! It's important that we all learn and understand why kelp is important and how it supports our planet every day.

Abalone in KoreaOriginal Source: Gwangbok Kim

How? Take a virtual deep dive! There are many online resources available, such as our Knowledge Hub, to help us understand the significance of kelp. Just be sure to take this one step further and share what you find with your family and friends!

Crayweed PlantingOriginal Source: Tom Burd

Join the race to #HelpTheKelp

The Kelp Forest Challenge is a global movement to raise our connection to the ocean and ultimately protect and restore 4 million hectares of kelp forests by 2040. Anyone can get involved, it doesn't matter if you are a snorkeller, CEO, scientist, artist or ocean lover.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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