Forests Without Trees: Restoring Southern California’s Kelp Forests
California’s kelp forest ecosystems have been thrown out of balance by climate change, causing them to shrink. A system of onshore and offshore aquaculture and artificial kelp reefs, placed in strategic locations near natural kelp beds, aims to restore kelp ecosystems and some of their inhabitants along the coast of Southern California. Purple sea urchins, whose overgrazing has created urchin barrens, would be removed, fattened, and sold as food, while white abalone would be raised to restore to the kelp forests. Aquaculture centers would also raise giant kelp, ogo, dulse, and rock scallops, research sea star wasting disease, and provide interactive visitor exhibits. Artificial kelp reefs would expand kelp habitat, and hopefully along with it, sea otter populations. The combination of restored urchin predators like otters and sea stars, along with increased kelp beds, could create a better ecological balance on California’s coastline.