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Kelp restoration shows promise of new ideas

VERDE LAGUNA

July 16, 2010|By By Gustavo Grad

To the negative impact on the environment we have witnessed for the last 90 days, as a result of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, a note of hope: the Southern California Giant Kelp Restoration Project.

This project was launched in 2001 to reestablish historic kelp beds along the Southern California coast. The giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is a type of brown algae that grows on rocky reefs in ocean waters usually less than 80 feet deep, that by using sunlight and ocean nutrients forms a dense canopy resembling an underwater forest.

Why is this important? Because about 800 species of marine organisms depend on the kelp at some point in their life history. The deep ocean damaged today is also the home of organisms whose productivity is based on chemosynthesis, process by which most plants in the sea convert sunlight into useable biological energy. Many systems have been discovered in recent years, and the vast majority remain to be discovered. Providing humanity with food, economic benefits and recreation, living marine resources represent an important resource for current and future generations. These resources range from the tremendously productive phytoplankton, which help maintain atmospheric gas balances, sequester carbon, and form the base of many marine food chains, to corals, which build reefs that protect coastlines and create the most diverse ecosystems.

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About three-fourths of our planet is covered by oceans, and the impact this has on Earth's biosphere is an amazing ecosystem that can sustain human life. In fact, for many people our oceans are the only possible source to feed a growing population, definitely a reason to work on a strategy for the preservation of Earth's biodiversity to avoid the destruction of the very species that sustain life.

Instead, as seen in the near past, human activities separate us from the oceans. The oil spill and pollution is damaging our oceans. The blowout from the oil rig raises a concern about offshore drilling, but even more concern about the marine resources lost.

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