March 21 is officially International World Forest Day. Do kelp forests fit within that definition, or do they deserve their own dedicated day of celebration?
A dedicated day is something the international Kelp Forest Alliance would like to see, in recognition of the vital role that forests play in supporting the health of the oceans and planet, and the increasing threats that these essential ecosystems are facing.
But in the meantime, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and surely kelp forests qualify as part of that.
The Kelp Forest Alliance details losses of kelp forests around the world; Southern Australia and Northern California have lost up to 95% of their giant and bull kelp forests, it says. Declines have occurred on every continent. And when kelp forests disappear, so do the fish and so do the livelihoods that they support.
"Rising sea temperatures, overgrazing, overfishing, and water pollution are causing the deforestation of kelp forests across the globe," says the alliance.
"Kelp forests cover a third of the world’s coastlines and support hundreds of millions of people. The benefits of these ecosystems to people are enormous. Kelp forests draw carbon from the atmosphere, exude oxygen, reduce damage from storms, improve water quality, and draw visitors to their depths
"Kelp forests support multi-billion dollar lobster, abalone and sea urchin fisheries. On average, 100 m2 of kelp forests provide 1700 kilograms of fishery-related biomass each year."
World Forest Day encourages countries to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.
It's a much more challenging endeavour to replant in the oceans. Still, the Kelp Forest Alliance is leading efforts internationally and has set a global target to restore one million hectares of kelp forests by 2040 as part of its #kelpforestchallenge.
The Kelp Forest Alliance is a collaborative home that brings together people and organisations to enhance, protect, and restore these incredible ecosystems.
Visit the Kelp Forest Challenge webpage to learn more about the challenge and to contribute to the global kelp protection and restoration goals.
More information: Kelp Forest Alliance