[Australia] Marine scientists are planting tiny spores of giant kelp in southern Tasmania to rebuild the state’s famous underwater forests and tackle climate change.
In Tasmania, 95 per cent of giant kelp forests have been destroyed by rising sea temperatures, but the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) hopes these new plantings will help to restore endangered marine forests.
Researchers are identifying individual kelp, or populations of kelp, that will tolerate warmer seas.
Cayne Layton from the IMAS said the first round of transplanting was mainly to trial their methods while they ran their lab experiments.
“Once we start putting out our selected lab-bred ‘super kelp’ in the coming weeks, that’ll be an Australian-first for any seaweed, and a world-first for giant kelp in terms of using specially selected giant kelp for habitat restoration,” Dr Layton said.
The out-planting, or transfer, of the giant kelp to the ocean helps to re-create habitats and support reef systems to keep ecosystems flowing in places like the Great Southern Reef, which covers a large chunk of the Australian coastline.
Researchers believe the surviving 5 per cent of kelp is tolerant to warmer waters.
“Just like trees on earth, they also store carbon,” Dr Layton said.
“We’re talking about hundreds or thousands of tonnes per square kilometre that these kelp forests can sequester.
Lost kelp forests
Salmon producer Huon Aquaculture has joined the campaign and marine manager Adam Smark helped build some small trial platforms for the kelp in southern Tasmania.
“We are providing the home for the kelp seeds. IMAS has planted kelp seeds onto lines on existing moorings across one of our Storm Bay leases,” he said.
“You do need to wait for the right weather conditions in a place like Storm Bay [because] the majority of the work and infrastructure is below the surface.
“Anchors were deployed to the seabed with surface buoys attached to show their location on the surface.
“A thick rope at a 10-metre depth runs horizontally between them, and this is the attachment point that the IMAS researchers out-planted the kelp.”
Mr Smark said he was excited by the idea of possibly rehabilitating Tasmania’s lost kelp forests.
“While the kelp hasn’t yet been in the water long enough for really significant growth to have occurred, we are looking forward to the day when hopefully the giant kelp finally reaches the surface at our Storm Bay lease,” he said.
More funds needed
Crowdfunding for the project has been organised by The Climate Foundation together with sustainable travel company, the Intrepid Foundation, and the documentary 2040.
Intrepid Foundation’s Kira Day said the crowdfunding exercise, which reached its first goal of $350,000 in four months, sparked a lot of attention from the community.
“With those funds, scientists have collected spores from some of the surviving giant kelp populations to identify individuals that are more tolerant of warming waters,” Ms Day said.
“The spores may be tiny, but the implications are massive since this stage is the foundation for further work and is crucial to enable the project to be scaled up in our warming oceans.
“To continue the project’s success, we set a new goal to raise an additional $250,000 to scale the project, continue restoration research, and to trial marine permaculture systems offshore in Tasmania’s Storm Bay.
“We have nearly reached our phase two fundraising goal.”
The travel company hoped successful transplants of giant kelp spores would help return the kelp forests they once advertised as a natural wonder.
“We hope that the regeneration of kelp populations will revive that tourism for future generations,” Ms Day said.
Photo: IMAS researchers Masa Tatsumi (left) and Cayne Layton work to restore Tasmania’s endangered kelp forests. (Supplied: IMAS)
View original article at: Seaweed scientists replanting giant kelp forests tolerant of warmer waters
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