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Kelp Ecology Slideshow
 

Kelp Ecology Slideshow

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These forests under the sea are some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Imagine flying, like a bird or butterfly, through a forest full of beautiful and fascinating residents with the sun’s ...

These forests under the sea are some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Imagine flying, like a bird or butterfly, through a forest full of beautiful and fascinating residents with the sun’s rays filtering down through the canopy above. These ecosystems are not only beautiful and interesting, they are valuable to humans and they are valuable to the planet.

When viewed through the perspective of a city under the sea, kelp beds also offer insights about sustainability. Kelp plants are like buildings but very special buildings that are powered completely by solar energy and provide both food and shelter for residents. In this imaginary underwater city, there is recycling, public health, advertising and lots of other things familiar from our own communities. There are also lessons we can take from the kelp bed ecosystem to guide us in creating more sustainable communities on land.

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    Kelp Ecology Slideshow Kelp Ecology Slideshow Presentation Transcript

    • Ambassadors of the Environment Kelp Bed Ecosystem www.oceanfutures.org/kelpecologyAs Ambassadors of the Environment we will explore the kelp bedecosystem and discover lessons that can help us live moresustainable lives.
    • We will use the “city underthe sea” metaphor to helpexplain the ecological rolesof many different creaturesin the kelp forest. Just likehuman cities whereeveryone has a specific job,kelp forests have powerplants, farmers, recyclingand waste managers,doctors, and demolitioncrews.
    • Kelp is essentially the “construction crew” and “architect” of the kelpforest: it creates the “buildings” –the 3D physical structure—in whichcountless organisms live and find shelter. Kelp is a type of brown algaeand is considered one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Givenoptimal conditions, cold nutrient rich waters, kelp can grow up to 2 feet inone day and can reach over 100 feet in its lifetime, creating homes for the800+ species of marine animals that live in the kelp forest.
    • Kelp attaches to the seafloorwith a structure called aholdfast. Without this, the kelpmight drift to shore and die, sothe holdfast is the essential“foundation” of the kelp“building.”
    • Kelp needs sunlight to grow, so it has gas-filled bladders, or floats, thathelp it float to the ocean’s surface and collect as much sunlight aspossible. It therefore creates a vertical structure with a variety of niches,from the surface to the mid-water and ocean floor.
    • Just like there are constructioncrews in this underwater city,there are also “demolitioncrews.” Sea urchins munch onthe kelp’s holdfasts, sometimeschewing all the way throughand freeing the kelp to floataway in the ocean currents. Thekelp can survive this way, but ifit washes onto shore it will dieand decompose.
    • In addition to providing the“buildings” in the city underthe sea, kelp also serves as a“solar power plant.” The kelpblades reach out like leaves ona tree to collect the sun’senergy through a processcalled photosynthesis.Pigments in the blade collectthe energy in photons of lightand convert it into sugar, thekelp’s food! When othercreatures eat the kelp, thisenergy is transferred up thefood chain, eventuallypowering the entire kelp forestcommunity.
    • The kelp forest, complete with its buildings and power plants, is home tomany “families.” This is a male Garibaldi. He has carefully cultivated anest of algae on which his mate will lay eggs (top left). The parentsfiercely defend their nest from intruders.
    • Should a predator such as a sea star encroach on their territory, theparents immediately remove the threat to defend their young! We evenhave good parents in this city under the sea.
    • There is also “advertising” on the reef, just like we find throughouthuman cities. This nudibranch’s ad comes in the form of bright colors:they indicate the nudibranch contains nasty, unpalatable toxins andwarn predators to steer clear!
    • Kelp forests, like human cities, are even home to “thieves” and “criminals.” The spanish shawl nudibranch (top left) eats hydroids (bottom right), which contain stinging cells. What is really cool is that the nudibranch can prevent the hydroids’ stingers from discharging and actually storeHaving stolen someone else’s defense, them in its gills (the orange frillythe nudibranch walks around in broad things on the top of thedaylight, naked and without a shell, nudibranch).advertising itself with brilliant colorssaying, “See my colorful gills? They arefull of hydroid stingers and if you eatme you will get a mouthful of pain.”That’s quite an adaptation: usingsomeone else’s defense for yourself andthen using warning coloration to makesure everyone knows it. Not only is thisefficient but it enables the snail to avoidgoing to the trouble of making a heavyshell.
    • Swimming through a kelp forest, one might happen upon a “doctor’soffice.” These yellow senoritas are the doctors and the gray blacksmithsare their patients. Senoritas eat parasites and dead scales off theirpatients, keeping them clean and healthy while getting an easy meal.This is called a mutualistic relationship because both parties benefit.
    • Blacksmiths indicate they are ready for their doctor’s appointment bystanding on their heads! Just like human doctor’s offices, there is usuallya line, and each patient must wait his or her turn.
    • Kelp forests and human cities are very similar. However, unlike in humancities, the inhabitants of kelp beds generally do not pollute, deplete theirnatural resources, or destroy other ecosystems. Kelp forests offer lessonsthat can help us make our own communities more sustainable.
    • The Four Principles By understanding how nature works, we can imitate it and make our own way of life more sustainable on Earth. In the Ambassadors of the Environment program, we learned four simple lessons about how nature works and used them to brainstorm ways to live sustainably. We call them the Four Principals.
    • The Four Principles1. Everything Runs On Energy.2. There Is No Waste In Nature. 3. Biodiversity Is Good. 4. Everything Is Connected.
    • 1. Everything Runs The first Principle states that EVERYTHING RUNS ON ENERGY. On Energy Just like our bodies, cars, desktop lamps, computers, televisions, and appliances – every organism in nature needs energy. Some creatures, like kelp and plants on land, get their energy from the sun. They harness the sun’s energy to make their own food in a process called photosynthesis, and therefore we call them “primary producers.” They often provide the base of the food chain in their particular ecosystem, converting solar energy into chemical energy and thus transferring the sun’s energy to the rest of the ecosystem’s inhabitants.
    • Here is a Norris kelp snailgrazing on kelp. This snail is anherbivore that uses its roughtongue to scrape off and eatalgae, converting the kelp’senergy into snail energy.Notice there is a hole in thesnail’s shell. Any idea whomade this hole, and why?
    • The hole was made by this creature - an octopus. The octopus feeds onsnails and other shellfish. In this food chain, the sun’s energy is convertedinto kelp energy, then into Norris kelp snail energy and then into octopusenergy. But the food chain doesn’t stop here. So who would eat anoctopus?
    • A sculpin (left) would consider an octopus a fine dish. So would a kelp bass (bottom).The sun’s energy is transferredfrom kelp, to Norris kelp snails,to octopuses, and finally to kelpbass and sculpins! And what agreat energy source for the kelpcity to use! Solar energy is aclean, renewable energy sourcethat never runs out!
    • Humans presently get most of their power from oil and coal-powerplants. In these power plants, oil or coal is burned to heat water andcreate steam, which turns turbines that generate electricity. However,burning oil and coal releases harmful greenhouse gasses into ouratmosphere, contributing to global climate change. This problem couldbe solved by switching to renewable energy such as wind, solar, andbiofuel energy.
    • In a solar oven sunlight isconverted to heat and used forcooking. Solar ovens are beingused in many developingcountries to reduce the cuttingof trees. This helps protectforests, which can take upcarbon dioxide and reduce thisgreenhouse gas in theatmosphere.
    • Many homes and developments use solar panels to heat water. This savesmoney and it reduces our use of petroleum and the release of carbondioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. A win-win situation!
    • 2. There Is No Waste In NatureThe second principle says “THERE IS NO WASTE IN NATURE.” In nature,resources such as nutrients are continually used and recycled.Nutrients are fertilizer that plants need to grow and make food. In thekelp forests, creatures such as lobsters eat detritus, the organic“leftovers” or “dead stuff” on the seafloor. Along with worms andmicrobes, lobsters ensure that organic matter is converted back intoraw materials (nutrients) for plants to use again.
    • Like lobsters, sea cucumber eat detritus. What’s great about them is whatcomes out their back end is cleaner than what goes in their mouths! Theyingest a mixture of sand and detritus and poop out clean sand, thuskeeping the forest nice and clean while getting a meal!
    • Remember the food chain we learned about? This diagram summarizesthat food chain. It shows how predators like kelp bass or sculpins mightdie, fall to the seafloor, and decompose to become detritus that’s eaten bycreatures like sea cucumbers and lobsters. The sea cucumbers also die,decomposing into the simple nutrients that will eventually fertilize thegrowth of new kelp, thus re-entering the nutrient cycle. In the kelp forest,nutrients are used over and over again: There is no waste in nature!!
    • Today, humans tend to waste a lot ofresources. One thing we can do tochange this situation is compost.Composting is where worms, bugs andmicrobes convert organic waste intosoil, just as we see in nature. Bycomposting food leftovers, we preventgarbage from going to ever-growinglandfills, where things take a muchlonger time to break down and don’tget the chance to return to a naturalecosystem. Instead, waste is convertedinto useful, fertile soil that can bereused in a garden.
    • At Ambassadors of the Environment programs, participants sort theirmeal’s leftovers to compost. The garbage goes into worm bins where theworms eat this food waste and poop out nutrient-rich soil. This compostis the perfect fertilizer for a garden!
    • The compost fertilizer can then be used to grow plants in an organicgarden, and in turn we can eat yummy fruits and vegetables! In natureeverything is recycled - there is no waste in nature.
    • 3. Biodiversity Is Good Biodiversity refers to the number of different species that live in a certain ecosystem. Biodiversity is like nature’s insurance policy, because when there are a lot of different organisms in an ecosystem, all of the important work needed to keep the community healthy gets done. If one species ails or disappears, many others are around to replace it.The kelp forest is home to an interesting biodiversity of differentorganisms, and each has specific adaptations to help it thrive in itsparticular niche. This Wavy Turban snail, for example, grazes algae andother types of organic matter on the bottom of the ocean with a hardshell for protection.
    • The wavy turban snail has adapted a strong shell and a really neat trapdoor, called an operculum, to protect itself from predators even if it isturned upside down. Pretty clever since its soft body would probably be ayummy meal to many hungry mouths in the kelp forest…
    • …like this hornshark. It would feast upon a wavy turban snail if it couldever find one without its hard protective shell.
    • Biodiversity is good within a single species. Juvenile garibaldi (top) lookdifferent from the adults (bottom) so they are not forced to compete asadults at a young age. This diversity of form keeps the juveniles safer inthe kelp forest environment and therefore keeps the species as a wholestronger!
    • This rock contains boring clams are among the demolition crews of thecoastline. They protect themselves by boring down into solid rock, creatingan even safer shelter than a shell. Their foot can secrete chemicals thaterode the rock, allowing the clam to rub its own shell slowly to create ahole. And when the clam grows bigger, it will just bore some more until itsshelter fits just right. As clams bore holes into rocks, rocks break down moreeasily, creating more sand, which replenishes beaches that lose sand to thedeep sea. A clam’s life is anything but boring!
    • Mussels are specially adapted for life on rocks. They produce adhesivestrings called byssal threads that allow them to attach firmly to rocks andother hard surfaces. So when the surf is big mussels can withstand thepowerful force of the waves. Mussels take advantage of the waves washingover them by filter feeding plankton through their gills.
    • 4. Everything Is ConnectedThe fourth Ambassadors of theEnvironment principle is thatEVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.Humans are connected tonature, the ocean is connectedto the land, and everyone -humans, animals, plants - isconnected to the future. Herewe see how kelp creates ahabitat, like a city under thesea, where many fish seekshelter.
    • This holdfast, that attacheskelp firmly to the bottom, is aprefect place for smallcreatures to hide. There can bethousands of creatures livingin a holdfast, includinganemones, sponges, worms,clams, snails, shrimp and othercrustaceans, sea stars, brittlestars, sea cucumbers and fish.Some are juveniles that willgrow up and leave while othersmay live in the holdfast fortheir entire lives. Many speciesare connected to kelp for foodand for a place to live.
    • Kelp forests are also connected to the land. When kelp is washed ontoshore it can become a valuable resource for creatures that live betweenthe tides and some of those creatures can be food for land animals.
    • This amphipod loves to munch on the kelp that washes to shore!Amphipods (or beach hoppers) are great recyclers for the beach –having more than 8000 species around the world, they help beachesaround the world stay clean by eating all the decomposing algae.
    • As the beach hoppers munch on the dead kelp, they break the algaedown and help bacteria convert kelp into nutrients. These nutrientsfertilize the growth of more algae, while the beach hoppers get gobbledup by hungry sea gulls. Then when seagulls roost on land they poop.Their digested beach hoppers become fertilizer for plants and treesalong the coast, supplying terrestrial ecosystems with valuablenutrients. Sea and land, kelp and birds, beach hoppers and coastal plants– they are all connected.
    • Sea urchins live on the bottom and eat algae, including kelp. In ahealthy ecosystem predators, like urchins, and prey, like kelp, are inbalance and both species survive just fine. But if the predators thatcontrol urchin populations disappear, then the urchins can eat all thekelp and create an ecological imbalance.
    • Important predators on sea urchins are sea otters, on the right, andsheephead, on the left. Both of these species have been overharvested byhumans. With fewer predators on urchins, the urchin populations havegrown and this in turn results in less kelp and other species of algae. Thisis not good for all of the plants and animals that depend on kelp fortheir survival.
    • This is called an urchin barren. In the absence of predators, thispopulation of urchins has grazed down all of the kelp. As urchinpredators, sea otters and sheephead are important in maintainingthe entire kelp bed ecosystem with the hundreds of species live in it.Everything is connected.
    • All residents in the kelp bedecosystem are connected.Some species depend on othersfor food. Some use others as ahabitat or place to live. Somelike senoritas are cleaners andkeep their patients healthy.Some nudibranchs use otherspecies for their defense,stealing stinging capsules fromhydroids they eat. Kelp bedsdemonstrate theinterdependence of life.
    • 1. Everything Runs The kelp bed On Energy. ecosystem shows the importance 2. There Is No of our FourWaste In Nature. Principles. It helps us think 3. Biodiversity Is about what we Good. can do to live in harmony with nature and 4. Everything Is create more Connected. sustainable lives.