Navigation Links
UCSB scientists track environmental influences on giant kelp with help from satellite data
Date:5/17/2011

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have developed new methods for studying how environmental factors and climate affect giant kelp forest ecosystems at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales.

The scientists merged data collected underwater by UCSB divers with satellite images of giant kelp canopies taken by the Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper. The findings are published in the feature article of the May 16 issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series.

In this marriage of marine ecology and satellite mapping, the team of UCSB scientists tracked the dynamics of giant kelp the world's largest alga throughout the entire Santa Barbara Channel at approximately six-week intervals over a period of 25 years, from 1984 through 2009.

David Siegel, co-author, professor of geography and co-director of UCSB's Earth Research Institute, noted that having 25 years of imagery from the same satellite is unprecedented. "I've been heavily involved in the satellite game, and a satellite mission that goes on for more than 10 years is rare. One that continues for more than 25 years is a miracle," said Siegel. Landsat 5 was originally planned to be in use for only three years.

Forests of giant kelp are located in temperate coastal regions throughout the world. They are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, and giant kelp itself provides food and habitat for numerous ecologically and economically important near-shore marine species. Giant kelp also provides an important source of food for many terrestrial and deep-sea species, as kelp that is ripped from the seafloor commonly washes up on beaches or is transported offshore into deeper water.

Giant kelp is particularly sensitive to changes in climate that alter wave and nutrient conditions. The scientists found that the dynamics of giant kelp growing in exposed areas of the Santa Barbara Channel were largely controlled by the occurrence of large wave events. Meanwhile, kelp growing in protected areas was most limited by periods of low nutrient levels.

Images from the Landsat 5 satellite provided the research team with a new "window" into how giant kelp changes through time. The satellite was built in Santa Barbara County at what was then called the Santa Barbara Research Center and launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. It was designed to cover the globe every 16 days and has collected millions of images. Until recently these images were relatively expensive and their high cost limited their use in scientific research.

However, in 2009, the entire Landsat imagery library was made available to the public for the first time at no charge. "In the past, it was not feasible to make these longtime series, because each scene cost over $500," said Kyle C. Cavanaugh, first author and UCSB graduate student in marine science. "In the past, you were lucky to get a handful of images. Once these data were released for free, all of a sudden we could get hundreds and hundreds of pictures through time."

Giant kelp grows to lengths of over 100 feet and can grow up to 18 inches per day. Plants consist of bundles of ropelike fronds that extend from the bottom to the sea surface. Fronds live for four to six months, while individual plants live on average for two to three years. According to the article, "Giant kelp forms a dense floating canopy at the sea surface that is distinctive when viewed from above. Water absorbs almost all incoming near-infrared energy, so kelp canopy is easily differentiated using its near-infrared reflectance signal."

Cavanaugh explained that, thanks to the satellite images, his team was able to see how the biomass of giant kelp fluctuates within and among years at a regional level for the first time. "It varies an enormous amount," said Cavanaugh. "We know from scuba diver observations that individual kelp plants are fast-growing and short-lived, but these new data show the patterns of variability that are also present within and among years at much larger spatial scales. Entire forests can be wiped out in days, but then recover in a matter of months."

Satellite data were augmented by information collected by the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research Project (SBC LTER), which is based at UCSB and is part of the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. In 1980, the NSF established the LTER Program to support research on long-term ecological phenomena. SBC LTER became the 24th site in the LTER network in April of 2000. The SBC LTER contributed 10 years of data from giant kelp research dives to the current study.

The scientists said that interdisciplinary collaboration between geographers and marine scientists is common at UCSB and is a strength of its marine science program.

Daniel C. Reed, co-author and research biologist with UCSB's Marine Science Institute, is the principal investigator of SBC LTER. Reed has spent many hours as a research diver. He explained: "Kelp occurs in discrete patches. The patches are connected genetically and ecologically. Species that live in them can move from one patch to another. Having the satellite capability allows us to look at the dynamics of how these different patches are growing and expanding, and to get a better sense as to how they are connected. We can't get at that through diver plots alone. The diver plots, however, help us calibrate the satellite data, so it's really important to have both sources of information."


'/>"/>

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

Related biology news :

1. Scientists at the Ecological Society of Americas 2011 Annual Meeting to discuss global stewardship
2. AgriLife Research scientists work with RNA silencing and plant stem cells
3. Scientists find new class of compounds with great potential for research and drug development
4. Cancer scientists discover new way breast cancer cells adapt to environmental stress
5. Yale scientists discover new method for engineering human tissue regeneration
6. NRELs multi-junction solar cells teach scientists how to turn plants into powerhouses
7. UGA scientists discover missing links in the biology of cloud formation over the oceans
8. Scientists discover animal-like urea cycle in tiny diatoms in the ocean
9. Smithsonian scientists report changes in vegetation determine how animals migrate
10. Johns Hopkins scientists reveal nerve cells navigation system
11. BC scientists link to European Consortium studying human genome
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
UCSB scientists track environmental influences on giant kelp with help from satellite data 
(Date:3/31/2016)...  Genomics firm Nabsys has completed a financial  restructuring ... , M.D., who returned to the company in October ... team, including Chief Technology Officer, John Oliver , ... and Vice President of Software and Informatics, Michael ... Dr. Bready served as CEO of Nabsys from 2005-2014 ...
(Date:3/21/2016)... 22, 2016 Unique technology ... for superior security   Xura, ... of secure digital communications services, today announced it is ... offer enterprise customers, particularly those in the Financial Services ... voice authentication within a mobile app, alongside, and in ...
(Date:3/14/2016)... 14, 2016 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or ... market, announces the airing of a new series of commercials ... of March 21 st .  The commercials will air on ... Squawk on the Street show. --> NXTD ) ... mobile commerce market, announces the airing of a new series ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... Founder of the Fitzmaurice ... surgery and surgery of the hand by the National Board of Physicians and ... above and beyond in his pursuit of providing the most comprehensive, effective treatment ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... Scientists at ... line options being tried for mesothelioma may be hampering the research that could lead ... research. Click here to read it now. , The team evaluated 98 ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... Lady had been battling arthritis ... cruciate ligament in her left knee. Lady’s owner Hannah sought the help of Dr ... veterinary surgeon, to repair her cruciate ligament and help with the pain of Lady’s ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Cell therapies for a range of serious ... at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) that yielded a newly patented method of converting ... novel method, developed by WPI faculty members Raymond Page, PhD, professor of practice ...
Breaking Biology Technology: