Ecological feedbacks facilitating resilience and restoration of kelp forests.

By 11/23/2021Current Projects
HSF 21053 | Amount: $82,000 | Project Leader: S Bennett | Project Period:

A project undertaken at the University of Tasmania, and supervised by Dr Scott Bennett.

Kelp forests span over 8000 kms of rocky reefs along the southern half of Australia and support a globally unique hotspot of marine biodiversity. A dramatic loss of kelp forests in recent decades, however, is now threatening Australia’s unique marine biodiversity and eroding the critical services kelp forests provide.

Diver assessing Macrocystis recruitment

In response, emerging efforts are underway to try and restore kelp forests in several parts of Australia.

Currently, fundamental knowledge gaps remain about how ecological feedbacks within seaweed communities influence the resilience and restoration potential of kelp forests.  Reefs where kelp forests have been lost are typically taken over by other seaweed species.

Competitive interactions between established seaweed communities and kelps that are planted for restoration, will inevitably undermine restoration efforts and waste valuable resources.

In contrast, ‘finding the positives’, where established reef communities can facilitate the recruitment and long-term recovery of kelp would greatly benefit the efficacy and scaling up of restoration efforts.

This project will quantify interactions among kelp forest species and with different substrate types. We will then compare how kelp forest interactions change along environment gradients of wave exposure and depth to understand what bio-physical conditions provide the best conditions for the re-establishment of kelps and maintenance of reef biodiversity.

The findings of this project aim to provide critical information about the bio-physical habitat conditions required for successful kelp restoration and test fundamental ecological questions about mechanism underpinning the maintenance of Australia’s unique temperate reef biodiversity.