The Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, is the largest macroalgae in the world. It is a vital ecosystem-engineer, providing habitats that support biodiverse and productive food webs. Macrocystis often forms dense underwater forests in many parts around the world, including the temperate marine environment of Baja California´s Northwest Pacific Coast. These underwater forests are at major risk of environmental shifts characterized by less productive, even barren habitats replacing large areas of productive kelp forests supporting complex trophic webs. Recently, the Macrocystis ecosystems of Baja California suffered visible damage. Their densities decreased after water temperatures along the coast drastically increased due to the combination of The Blob in 2014 and the 2015-2016 El Niño event. The three-dimensional structure and high productivity of Macrocystis forests play important ecological roles by providing food and habitat for a large number and diversity of organisms, including a plethora fish and invertebrates. Kelp forests are of great value, supporting fisheries and recreational activities; moreover, they provide ecosystem services, such as coastal protection by attenuating waves and reducing coastal erosion. The recovery of canopy-forming giant kelp is of utmost concern for many nearshore fisheries and tourism agencies in Baja California.
We expect that this project serves as a model to restore and rejuvenate kelp beds along the Northwest Pacific Coast of Baja California.