|My best pic of kelp, I haven't been back since digital cameras :(|
The pneumatocysts at the bottom of each blade resulted in the genus name Macrocystis as it means "large bladder." One of the characteristics that distinguish giant kelp from bull kelp or other large brown algae, is the single pneumatocyst found at the end of every single blade. These bladders are full of gas to keep the algae floating in the water column and closer to the sunlight needed for photosynthesis. Looking like a giant tangled knot of roots at the bottom of the kelp is the holdfast. Holdfasts do just what the name implies, hold tight so that the algae is not dislodged in rough conditions, they do not absorb water or nutrients like roots do for land plants.
|Another ancient film photo, this one featuring CA state fish the Garibaldi|
Giant kelp is harvested and used to make algin, a thickening agent which is found in a lot of food. It also has been used for fertilizer, gun powder, in cosmetics and many other applications. In California, harvesting kelp is a $40 million dollar industry. To protect the kelp forest environment, only the kelp found in the top 4 feet of the water column are collected, leaving the bulk of the strand in tact to regrow. In addition to harvesting, kelp forests provide other economical advantages to the coasts they cover, such as tourism. Another important feature is shoreline protection, waves are slowed down by the thick kelp forests and thus less energy hits the shore, resulting in less erosion.
|Last old scanned, film photos of the kelp forests, this time looking up!|
To experience a small taste of the diversity of the kelp forest, Monterey Bay Aquarium features a Kelp Cam in their big kelp forest tank here, as does Scripps Birch Aquarium here.