Hundreds of kelp plants have been transplanted to a massive hand-built artificial reef system off Tasmania’s east coast in the largest experiment of its type in the world.
The warming of oceans and the spread of long-spined sea urchins is causing thinning and patchiness in kelp forests on rocky reefs in eastern Australia.
Researchers at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies decided to establish an artificial reef, transplant kelp and track the viability of creating kelp patches.
The last kelp plants, Ecklonia radiata, in the experiment were transplanted in the last few days. The research team created 28 patch reefs, with 500 plants, at seven metres depth over one hectare at Mercury Passage between Maria Island and the Tasmanian mainland.
Watch divers put the reef together:
The common kelp, Ecklonia radiata, creates underwater forests which supports productive ecosystems, including rock lobster and abalone.
Researcher Cayne Layton says understanding how these kelp forests thrive and support themselves is critical to protecting marine ecosystems.
“Unfortunately, kelp forests are under threat from a range of pressures including coastal development, inappropriate fisheries activity, invasive species and climate change,” he says.
“Our research is examining how kelp forests change their surrounding environment, and how these changes in turn benefit future generations of kelp.”
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