Embrace kelp forests in the coming decade
Posted by Helen Greenwood Hansma | , United States
Is boi only trying to prevent collisions between ships and whales? I certainly would have hoped for a much larger vision, such as this letter to Science:
The United Nations General Assembly recognizes that securing human lives and livelihoods will require putting an end to global habitat degradation and restoring hundreds of millions of hectares of lost habitats. In response, the organization has declared 2021 to 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (1). Perhaps the greatest challenge for the upcoming decade is upscaling restoration efforts to match the extent of habitat loss (2). Coral reefs and tropical forests have been highlighted as flagships of conservation need and as priority ecosystems in the UN Decade (1). In contrast, kelp forests are conspicuously missing from the UN recommendations (1).
Kelp forests provide critical ecosystem services to humans, similar to those provided by coral reefs and tropical forests (3). They also possess a much greater capacity for rapid growth and regeneration than either of these ecosystems (4). The benefits provided by kelp forests span 14 of the 18 categories of nature's contributions to people identified by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (5), including key features such as biodiversity provisioning, coastal protection, and carbon dioxide absorption and storage (3). Recently, the US government included kelp forests as an “essential” component of the federal strategy to address the climate change crisis (6).
Kelp forests cover 28% of the world's coastlines (7) and five times more ocean area than coral reefs (8, 9). They are declining under anthropogenic forces two and four times faster than coral reefs and tropical forests, respectively (10–12). Given the plethora of essential ecosystem services that kelp forests provide to humans, their rapid re-establishment and growth rates, and their past and current rates of decline, we contend that kelp forests hold unprecedented potential for restoration success. Embracing kelp forest restoration will greatly increase our chances of overcoming the upscaling challenge in restoration and delivering effective global action in the UN Decade.