BODEGA BAY (KPIX 5) — Despite the unrivaled beauty of the California coast line, UC Davis scientists say that just below the surface, the famous Kelp Forest is in serious trouble due to warmer ocean temperatures.
The kelp wave majestically under the water, supplying a critical link to the ocean ecosystem. Dr. Laura Rodgers-Bennett, a Senior Marine Scientist at the UC Davis-Bodega Marine Laboratory, has studied the kelp for more than 20 years.
“We’re seeing here in NorCal this huge decline in the Kelp Forest, and the Kelp Forest is much like the trees on land. They’re the homes and food for all kinds of marine organisms,” Rodgers-Bennett said.
She says climate change in the form of warmer water has allowed several factors to hurt the kelp buy; mainly, it’s little purple sea urchins that have decimated the kelp. They eat everything in sight, similar to goats eating grassy hills barren.
“It’s more difficult for people to visualize if you’re not a diver, but we are seeing 90% of the Kelp from San Francisco to southern Oregon has declined,” Rodgers-Bennett said.
That impacts many other species, too, such as the abalone that eats kelp. The decline is effecting the fishing industry as well and that may affect what one buys at the store.
“This is a severe disturbance of the coastal ecosystem. It’s unquestionably driven by warm ocean temperatures and this is as predicted,” said Noah Oppenheim, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations.
UC Davis Marine Lab is exploring ways to reduce the purple sea urchin. So far, they haven’t had much success and Dr. Rodgers-Bennett says her data indicates there is more warm water coming.
“It’s very similar to heat waves on land. So, we’re going to be in climate change. We’re going to be looking at the increase of the intensity and the frequency of marine heat waves.”