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Researchers discover forests of endangered tropical kelp
Date:9/26/2007

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) -- A research team led by San Jose State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara has discovered forests of a species of kelp previously thought endangered or extinct in deep waters near the Galapagos Islands. The discovery has important implications for biodiversity and the resilience of tropical marine systems to climate change. The research paper describing the discovery is published in this weeks on-line issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The ecosystems that form in these cold, deep pockets beneath warm tropical waters look more like their cousins in California than the tropical reefs just 200 feet above, said co-author Brian Kinlan, a researcher with UC Santa Barbaras Marine Science Institute. It is very similar to what we see when we climb a high mountain. For example, high alpine country in California looks more like Alaska.

Kinlan and Michael Graham, associate professor at SJSU, began by developing a mathematical model designed to predict likely habitat for the kelp, Eisenia galapagensis, based on information from satellites and oceanographic instruments on conditions including light, depth and nutrient availability. The premise of the model was developed by collaborator Louis Druehl, of the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, who surmised it was possible to create a predictive model for locating kelp forests rather than focusing on the limited details available from rare field observations.

The research team tested the model by traveling to the predicted habitat, where they searched for the kelp. Scuba divers -- including students from CSU Monterey Bay, CSU East Bay and UC Davis -- found the kelp forests from 40 to 200 feet below the surface, making the mission a success. The students conducted their surveys alongside the famed Amblyrhynchus christatus, the world's only seagoing iguanas. (High-resolution color photos are available.)

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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.e.du
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert

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