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Kelp Forest

Submitted by mpetracchi on Mon, 10/07/2019 - 20:10

In almost any type of near-shore climate, whether it be polar, temperate, or tropical, kelp forests can be found. Kelp are large brown algae, with specialized tissues designed to live underwater. They require a rocky substrate present to which the kelp can use its holdfasts to root itself and begin growing. When large quantities of kelp bunch up in dense patches, the area can be called a kelp forest. The dense brush provides a unique habitat to a diverse selection of wildlife including sea urchins, lobsters, mussels, abalones, other kinds of seaweeds and sea otters.

These organisms form a symbiosis with kelp, helping regulate its growth and destruction making this a very dynamic ecosystem. Sea urchins and sea otters are key regulators of this biome on opposite ends of the spectrum. Sea urchins are omnivorous bottom feeders that eat away at any vegetation or dead animals in their path, kelp being a major source of this diet. Although it may seem counter-productive that sea urchins regulate this biome by destroying matter, they actually play a key role. Without their grazing the kelp would grow continuously without any means to stop and eventually would form a forest so dense, light could not pass through and photosynthesis in the deeper areas would cease. Simultaneously, if too many sea urchins are allowed to graze the kelp forest would be destroyed. This is where sea otters come in. These marine mammals dive down into the kelp forests in search of their food sources, clams, mussels, and most importantly, sea urchins. One species regulates another species that regulates another. Without the sea urchin, the kelp forest may overgrow, without the sea otter the forest may be decimated. All are important in maintaining a homeostatic environment that benefits all the parties present, including the rest of the community of wildlife.