Kelps form vast marine forests structured much like terrestrial forests, where each stratum provides food, shelter and support for a highly diverse fauna and flora, including fish, mammals, invertebrates, seaweeds, etc.
Given this exceptional diversity, kelp forests have the same natural heritage value in cold and temperate coastal waters as do mangroves and coral reefs in tropical waters.
Kelp holdfasts alone form particularly diverse ecosystems.
Many associated species, some of which have high economic value (spiny spider crabs, edible crabs, sea bass, pollack, etc.), depend in part or entirely on kelp forests for food or for reproduction. Kelp forests are thus unique ecosystems with considerable ecological importance.
Kelp forests contribute greatly to species richness and function as a reserve of biodiversity that can be observed, for example, in the Iroise Marine Park . Many kelp forests along the coast of Brittany have been designated as Natura 2000 sites, attesting to the richness of these ecosystems and the necessity to conserve them.
Some inhabitants of kelp forests in Brittany:
Lobster Sea Anemone School of pouting Seal
In addition to the natural and climate-related factors that seem to be currently threatening kelp forests (turbidity, increases in temperature, sunlight exposure and storm frequency, etc.), other issues related to harvesting practices have been raised. Scientists and environmental protection groups, such as Robin des bois
have already sounded the alarm. (See the article in the French popular science magazine Science & Vie in its September 2007 issue)
Driftweed: large quantities
of kelp thalli wash up on shore
To learn more about kelp forest ecosystems, read:
- Dynamiques des champs de laminaires de L. digitata
: ressources algales en Bretagne : impact biotiques, abiotiques et anthropiques. [Influence of abiotic and biotic factors and human activities on the dynamics of L. digitata kelp beds, a seaweed resource in Brittany] Valero&Engel
- Kelps, quand les plus grandes algues du monde réinventent la forêt. [Kelps reinvent the forest]Sciences & Vie, Février 2003 (in French)
- Les algues brunes sont elles en danger ? [Are brown seaweeds in danger?]Sciences & Vie, Septembre 2007 (in French)
- Les écosystèmes de champs de laminaires référencés comme Habitat "Recifs" Natura 2000. Kelp forest ecosystems designated as Natura 2000 Reef Habitats (in French)