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  Habitats - Kelp Forests    

Kelp Forests
The information presented here has been written by staff
at the Marine Discovery Centre, Queenscliff, Victoria.

1. Distribution

Kelp forests are a feature of many cool water environments around the world and Australia supports some excellent examples of these forests of the sea. Kelp forests are also a feature of the west coast of North and South America, the north west Pacific including Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, and many of the islands in the Southern Ocean.

Kelp forests usually grow on subtidal rocky reefs although some kelps are able to grow on smaller scattered rocks. In general they grow on reefs in waters to a maximum of around 30 metres depth, although most are found in shallower waters. These areas can also extend onto the shore where a rock platform is in the intertidal area with larger kelps only growing up to the low tide mark.

Snorkelling in a forest of Giant String Kelp.

Giant string kelp
(Macrocystis angustolia)

As these plants are found in cool water extensive kelp forests are only found in Southern Australia, and they are particularly diverse in Victoria and Tasmania. Some species can grow to lengths of over 30m and can been seen with their fronds extended across the water surface.

Marine algae vary in their needs for nutrients and some species such as giant kelps are unable to tolerate low nutrient levels. Thus they are usually found in areas with high nutrient levels such as where deep-water upwellings of nutrients occur, or in places such as near seal colonies where nutrient levels are raised by the seals wastes.

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