Project Period: 2017 - Present
Kelp forests provide critical habitat for a wide variety of species. They also help control ocean temperature, produces large amounts of oxygen, sequesters carbon dioxide, and is a source of food and nutrients for many creatures, including humans.
It is estimated that 80% of the historic kelp beds in south Puget Sound have disappeared, where in other areas it's thriving. Kelp beds are now starting to disappear as far north as Snohomish County. There are several possible factors that could be impacting bull kelp populations: sedimentation, excessive nutrient runoff, increases in water temperature, overgrazing by sea urchins and kelp crabs, and competition from the invasive seaweed Sargassum.
Up until a few years ago, very little was known about the status of the kelp beds in the Northwest Straits region. In 2014, the Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC) established the Salish Sea International Kelp Alliance and launched a regional kayak-based bull kelp survey program. Six MRCs, including Skagit MRC, are currently involved in kayak-based bull kelp surveys using protocols established by the NWSC to monitor changes in bull kelp populations.
Skagit MRC’s Bull Kelp Kayak Surveys are 100% volunteer driven! This project wouldnt happen without them. Our experienced kayak volunteers lead the survey effort at three locations including: Coffin Rocks (at Bowman Bay), Shannon Point (2 kelp beds), and Biz Point. Surveys occur once a month during the peak bull kelp growing season from June to September. Preliminary data indicates 3 of the 4 survey sites we are monitoring appear to be increasing in size.
The NWSC compiles all of the data collected by our volunteers into a kelp database that is shared with local and regional planners and researchers. As part of a collaborative effort, the NWSC also helped develop the Kelp Recovery Plan. To learn more: www.nwstraits.org/our-work/kelp-recovery.