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Kelp Forest Hydrodynamics

Investigating how kelp forests influence waves, sediment, currents, and ocean chemistry.

Working to Protect the Shorelines Using Kelp Forest Restoration Techniques

Frequent storms and larger waves pounding the Southern California coastline are major causes for concern if we hope to preserve our beaches and rocky shorelines for future generations to enjoy. The Bay Foundation (TBF) spearheaded a study to investigate how we can protect our shorelines using kelp forest restoration techniques.

A variety of tools are used to measure physical, chemical, and biological responses to the presence of kelp in our study sites.

  • Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs): These instruments measure changes in current flow using the “Doppler effect” which uses sound waves scattered back from particles within the water column to measure water movement around the instrument.
  • Pressure Sensors: These instruments measure wave and tide data by sensing pressure differences in the water. As a surface wave passes over a subsurface pressure sensor, the elevation and depression of the sea surface cause a pressure disturbance that is then measured by the sensor.
  • Temperature Loggers: These instruments take timed measurements of the water temperature surrounding the instrument. When placed in varying depths, this data can help us understand stratification and mixing throughout the water column.
  • Niskin Bottles: Specialized containers that allow researchers to take water samples at predetermined depths in the water column to analyze chemical components of the sea water, such as dissolved oxygen and pH.
  • Biological Monitoring: SCUBA-based underwater surveys will quantify the growth of kelp over time, and the presence of invertebrates and fish in response to the increase in kelp density.

 

The Kelp Forest Hydrodynamics Study, led by Dr. Kristen Elsmore and Dr. Brian Gaylord of University of California, Davis, and Dr. Kerry J. Nickols of California State University Northridge, helped to inform how kelp forests influence current patterns, wave velocity, and sediment transport off the coast of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Water chemistry studies were done in conjunction with University of California, Los Angeles, Institute of Environment and Sustainability.

Project Highlights

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Mature Kelp Forests May Help Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change

This dense underwater forest changes the way water and sediment move inshore from the deep ocean, and along the California coastline. Mature kelp forests have the potential to dampen the effects of waves before they reach our beaches and shorelines, to help mitigate the effects of climate change in the future.

Kelp Forest Restoration Sites Make Perfect Study Areas

TBF’s kelp forest restoration sites allow instruments to measure physical, chemical, and biological data before the presence of kelp in an urchin barren, and after the presence of kelp when restoration work is complete.

Recording Physical Oceanographic Data as Kelp Recovers

Instruments that measure current flow, wave attenuation, and stratification are placed in our restoration sites, which start out as urchin barrens with little to no kelp influencing water flow. The instruments continuously record physical oceanographic data as kelp recovers and grows into dense, healthy kelp forests, reaching from the ocean floor to the water surface and forming a thick canopy.

Mature Kelp Forests May Help Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change

This dense underwater forest changes the way water and sediment move inshore from the deep ocean, and along the California coastline. Mature kelp forests have the potential to dampen the effects of waves before they reach our beaches and shorelines, to help mitigate the effects of climate change in the future.

Kelp Forest Restoration Sites Make Perfect Study Areas

TBF’s kelp forest restoration sites allow instruments to measure physical, chemical, and biological data before the presence of kelp in an urchin barren, and after the presence of kelp when restoration work is complete.

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