One of the glories of plant life on planet Earth are the great kelp forests along the coasts...
|Photo by Dan, taken in a kelp forest near Santa Rosa island.|
Near me, along the coast of California, is an 800 mile long coast that has historically been an almost continuous kelp forest. Kelp has historically run from Baja Mexico up to Alaska. (This kelp is all members of the Laminariales family; I don't mean "seaweed" in general, as the term kelp is sometimes used.)
|The coast of California used to look much like this. The dark areas in the water are stands of kelp. |
Was this forest near Gualala, CA larger in the past? How would you know?
I grew up snorkeling and diving the Los Angeles area coastline, and as I recall, the kelp forest was luxurious, dense, and grew fairly close to shore.
It can be intimidating to swim through, but if you've been in heavy kelp enough, you quickly learn to control your panic when it seems to wrap tightly around your ankles. It's pretty slippery stuff, so as long as you don't make any quick movements, but if you slowly and carefully untangle yourself, it's not bad.
Well, there was that one dive off Santa Rosa island where my feet got pretty tangled up with only 500 psi left in my tank... at 45 feet deep. That's a moment that'll decalcify your spinal column. But a bit of slow breathing and carefully reaching down and unwrapping my ankles got me free. Move slowly and carefully, don't panic. It was maybe only twenty seconds, but felt like twenty minutes.
As I travel up and down California these days, I can't help but notice the kelp beds that line the coast. I've read a few articles about the changes in kelp that have been happening over the past 30 years, but I wonder--what's really going on? Is it truly getting better? Or are things getting worse?
That curious question leads to today's Challenge:
1. How are the California kelp forests going these days? Are they healthy?
2. Can you find some data about the state of the kelp forests? How can one measure the forest and create a data set to analyze kelp forest health over a span of decades? Can you find such a multiyear data set?
What say you? Can you find this information?
As always, be sure to let us know HOW you found it. Did you use a special resource? Did you use a particular set of search terms? Enquiring minds want to know!