Why is kelp important?

Kelp (in Ireland the dominant species is Cuvie Laminaria hyperborea) are ecosystem engineer that provide a grazing material for urchins, shelter for fish, anchorage for seaweeds and sessile organisms and a variety of other ecosystem services to a diverse range of plants and animals. Cuvie is a long lived species (up to 15 years) but is vunerable to climate change, mechanical disturbance through harvesting and, potentially, replacement by non-native kelp species such as the golden kelp (Laminaria ochroleuca) or Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida), both of which have been recorded in Irish waters in recent years. However prior to the KelpRes project and the work of Dr Kathryn Schoenrock Rossiter of NUI Galway, not much was understood about this species in an Irish context.

Kelp (Laminaria hyperborea) at North Wall dive site Co Dublin Photo courtesy of Lucinda Keogh

KelpRes: the diversity and resilience of kelp ecosystems in Ireland

The KelpRes project began as an Irish Research Council funded project to look at the productivity and ecology of Irish kelp forests. Having secured funding from the Environmental Protection Agency the work expanded to include the genetic diversity of kelp along Irish coasts as well as the ecological aspects of kelp in an Irish context. Particular attention was also paid to the need to develop methods of long term monitoring of this important species and one such avenue was the use of citizen science. You can submit data directly to KelpRes or monitor your kelp site through the Seasearch Ireland National Marine Monitoring Scheme.

Cuvie (Laminaria hyperborea)
Distribution of Cuvie (Laminaria hyperborea) in Ireland