The Kelp Forests off Plymouth have been dedicated to Her Majesty as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy in an effort to highlight the importance of kelp as an environmental treasure which fringes much of the UK’s coastline.
Kelp forests are some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on earth. In the UK, kelp forests cover an area similar in size to two thirds of the nation’s woodlands. Just like forests on land, kelp plays a crucial role in the regulation of our atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide.
Kelp is a hidden wonder – its magic is largely unseen.
Most people are familiar with kelp from finding washed up pieces on the beach, or seeing its brown tops bobbing about in the sea. But kelp forms dense and magical underwater forests in shallow waters.
Much of the UK’s coastline is fringed with kelp forests, and the UK with France have the most diverse selection of kelp species in all of Europe.
Similar to mangroves and coral reefs in warmer waters, kelp forests are extremely important ecosystems. They offer shelter to a host of animals, including marine mammals and birds. They are a critical foraging and nursery habitat for fish and shellfish and are vital to the health of our oceans. Kelp forests are also important buffers against storm surges, reducing the impact of waves and preventing coastal erosion.
When Charles Darwin arrived in the Galapagos Islands in 1835, he acknowledged the significance of the kelp forests there, remarking that, “the number of living creatures of all Orders, whose existence intimately depends on kelp is wonderful”.
Interestingly, his ship the Beagle set sail from Plymouth, which hosts its own hidden kelp treasure beneath its waters.