Kelp Rockfish are a common fish in the kelp forest ecosystem. NPS Photo

Along the coast of Southern California, warm water currents from the south and cold water currents from the north mix to support an especially productive and diverse marine ecosystem – the kelp forest. Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, is the largest marine algae species in the world and can grow to heights of over 100 feet at a rate of as much as two feet per day. Over 1,000 different marine species, from large fish to tiny invertebrates, depend on the kelp forests for shelter, food and protection from predators. Kelp forests are also important nursery areas for juveniles of many species. With some of the most unique and ecologically diverse ecosystems found in the nearshore waters, Coastal Southern California national parks are an excellent location for research on kelp forest ecosystems.

  • The Point Loma kelp forest, one of the largest kelp forests in California, is located offshore of Cabrillo National Monument and has been monitored by Scripps Institution of Oceanography since the 1970s.
  • The kelp forests surrounding Channel Islands National Park are some of the best examples of kelp forest ecosystem along the Pacific Coast. It has been monitoring annually by park biologists since 1982, making it one of the longest established monitoring program in the National Park Service.

Kelp forests are at risk from both natural and human influences including strong El Niño storms, fluctuating water temperatures, coastal development, sedimentation, pollution and fishing.

Research on kelp forest ecosystems have been conducted by the parks and their partners for decades. Data gathered from these studies provide better information in the conservation and management of our ocean environment. Learn more about some of these projects from the links below.