Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

California's ancient kelp forest

Date:
November 26, 2009
Source:
University of California - Davis
Summary:
The kelp forests off southern California are considered to be some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, yet a new study indicates that today's kelp beds are less extensive and lush than those in the recent past.

Kelp beds are declining in their diversity, according to a new study.
Credit: Enric Sala/Scripps Institute of Oceanography

The kelp forests off southern California are considered to be some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, yet a new study indicates that today's kelp beds are less extensive and lush than those in the recent past.

The kelp forest tripled in size from the peak of glaciation 20,000 years ago to about 7,500 years ago, then shrank by up to 70 percent to present day levels, according to the study by Rick Grosberg, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology and the Center for Population Biology at UC Davis, with Michael Graham of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory and Brian Kinlan at UC Santa Barbara.

Kelp forests around offshore islands peaked around 13,500 years ago as rising sea levels created new habitat and then declined to present day levels. The kelp along the mainland coast peaked around 5,000 years later.

This transition from an extensive island-based kelp system to a mainland-dominated system coincided with conspicuous events in the archaeological record of the maritime people in the region, suggesting that climate-driven shifts in kelp ecosystems impacted human populations that used those resources.

Understanding the past history of a population is crucial to understanding its genetics in the present, Grosberg said.

"Kelp is interesting because it disperses only over short distances," Grosberg said. "Populations can become genetically isolated from one another even if they are quite close together."

"We wanted to know how connected the coastal kelp populations were since the last glacial maximum," he said.

On land, scientists can reconstruct the history of a forest or grassland from fossilized pollen or leaves. But kelp do not make pollen, and marine sediments do not preserve a good record of the plants.

The researchers used depth charts of the southern California coastline and information from sediment cores on past nutrient availability to reconstruct potential kelp habitat as sea levels changed over the last 20,000 years.

"We could reconstruct changes in kelp cover at a scale of 500 years and determine how fragmented or connected the populations were," Grosberg said.

People have lived off the produce of kelp forests when resources on land dwindled, and those changes are recorded in shell middens and other traces. That archaeological record can now be compared with the ecological history to get a more complete picture of California's coast.

"Now we know what was happening with kelp, what was happening with the ecology on land, and what the people were doing," Grosberg said.

The study was published online Oct. 21 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis. "California's ancient kelp forest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111092049.htm>.
University of California - Davis. (2009, November 26). California's ancient kelp forest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111092049.htm
University of California - Davis. "California's ancient kelp forest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111092049.htm (accessed August 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

AFP (Aug. 1, 2014) The discovery of a bear cub in the Pyrenees mountains made headlines in April 2014. Despire several attempts to find the animal's mother, the cub remained alone. Now, the Pyrenees Conservation Foundation has constructed an enclosure. Duration: 00:31 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Health officials are working to fast-track a vaccine — the West-African Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700. But why didn't we already have one? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Previous studies have made the link between birth control and breast cancer, but the latest makes the link to high-estrogen oral contraceptives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

AP (Aug. 1, 2014) A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard. The 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen whale fossils known to exist. (Aug. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins