Kelp Has Arrived . . . and It’s Raising a Stink

ENVIRONMENT

Warmer air and water temperatures, combined with overseas tropical storms, delivered an ecologically desirable but olfactory disagreeable gift to the shores of Laguna Beach, California, this summer—copious amounts of kelp. (Los Angeles Times)

Use our resources to see how kelp holds fast.

Teachers: Scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”

Do rocky reefs want to disentangle their stinky seaweed? Not if they can kelp it! Photograph by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA. Creative Commons Attribution-2.0 Generic license.

Do rocky reefs want to disentangle their stinky seaweed? Not if they can kelp it!
Photograph by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA. Creative Commons Attribution-2.0 Generic license.

Discussion Ideas

 

  • Read through our fun media spotlight on the life and times of California’s two species of kelp: bull kelp and giant kelp. Which type do you think is washing up on the shores of Laguna Beach? Why?
    • Laguna Beach’s kelp is probably giant kelp. “Giant kelp and bull kelp are indigenous to cold, shallow, sunny waters along the Pacific coast, from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico,” according to our media spotlight. “Bull kelp are more common in the northern part of the range. Giant kelp outcompete their sister species starting around Central California.”

 

  • The LA Times article says that strong storms contributed to tearing the kelp from their beds in the shallow Pacific. When strong winds blow through terrestrial forests, few trees tumble. Why are kelp forests so easily uprooted? (Our media spotlight will give you a clue!)
    • Simple: Kelp don’t have roots. Instead, they have gnarled structures called holdfasts attaching them to the ocean’s rocky (not sandy) substrate. Holdfasts are sturdy, but they can be easily ripped from the substrate by strong waves, sending the entire seaweed adrift in the ocean.
Here's a healthy kelp holdfast holding fast to rocks off the Channel Islands, California. Photograph by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA. Creative Commons Attribution-2.0 Generic license.

Here’s a healthy kelp holdfast holding fast to rocks off the Channel Islands, California.
Photograph by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA. Creative Commons Attribution-2.0 Generic license.

Kelp holds fast and holds up, but not much can hold up to strong ocean currents! Photograph courtesy Claire Fackler, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

Kelp holds fast and holds up, but not much can hold up to strong ocean currents!
Photograph courtesy Claire Fackler, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Los Angeles TimesIn Laguna Beach, kelp has arrived—and it’s raising a stink

NG Education: Kelp Holds Fast and Holds Up

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