The diversity and resilience of kelp ecosystems in Ireland
Kelps are ecosystem engineers in Ireland’s coastal environment that are important to a wide range of species because they provide protection, structure and food in marine habitats. The dominant kelp species on Ireland’s rocky shores is Cuvie. Though long lived (up to 15 years), Cuvie is a vulnerable species that is threatened by ocean warming, and can be replaced by non-native species such as the Golden kelp or Wakame which host fewer species (on the kelp). Like kelp forests worldwide, it is important that we understand ecosystem function in our nearshore habitats and evaluate the diversity and potential resilience (ability to withstand or adapt) to climate change.
We have just begun to understand kelp forests in Ireland through a recent survey targeting the productivity and ecology of Irish kelp forests, funded by the IRC. In this new EPA research program (KelpRes) we will extend our understanding of kelp ecosystems’ by investigating genetic diversity and ecological aspects of kelp populations and their ability to recover after large disturbance events. We will also develop parallel approaches to assess and monitor kelp forest distribution and ‘health’. If you would like to contribute kelp forest records or records of non-native species such as Golden Kelp please see our online recorder form.