HELP CAPTURE A 2017 “SNAPSHOT” OF BULL KELP LOCATIONS
You have seen it offshore, waving in the swell and streaming with the current. Sometimes it’s washed up on the beach in a slippery tangle. Bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana) is one of the largest algae in the Salish Sea. It can form underwater forests, providing physical habitat for animals and other algae while supporting critical food webs from bacteria through mammals and birds. The growing awareness of the role of bull kelp beds in ecosystem function is focusing more attention on where beds occur, how beds change through the seasons, and who inhabits the beds.
Several years ago, the Island County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) initiated a bull kelp project in collaboration with the Northwest Straits Initiative and other regional MRCs. Because bull kelp are annual plants, beds can disappear from view during the winter, and may not reappear the following spring. Washington Department of Natural Resources has evidence of declines of bull kelp beds in Central and South Puget Sound, and there are anecdotal reports of bull kelp bed disappearances in San Juan County. Although Island County supports robust beds in the Smith and Minor Island Aquatic Reserve, there is poor documentation of kelp beds County-wide.
In 2017, the MRC bull kelp project is trying to capture a “snapshot” of bull kelp locations along Island County’s shoreline and nearshore. Using sightings from the beach or from boats, you can report bull kelp locations on-line. The best data would include GPS coordinates to allow better mapping (there are free smart-phone GPS applications), but all reports are important. And redundancy in reporting is good – multiple reports of a bed increases the confidence the bed truly exists. We’ll be comparing reports with aerial photographs taken by Gregg Ridder, and will post a final map of locations after the season’s end.
Thanks for helping with the 2017 “snapshot” of bull kelp in Island County, and spread the word!
Introductory page for the 2017 “snapshot”: the following 3 links are also on this page.