(Environment & Ecology)General Studies Paper 3
Question:- 190. Highlight the importance of Kelp forests. Why are these under-sea ecosystems threatened? Answer in 250 words.
Feb 14, 2023


Kelp Forests are underwater ecosystems formed in shallow water by the dense growth of several different species known as kelps. Kelps cover 25 per cent of the world’s coastlines and are actually extremely large brown algae. Some species can reach heights (underwater) of 150 feet (45 m), and under ideal physical conditions, kelp can grow 18 inches (45 cm) in a single day!

Kelp thrives in cold, nutrient-rich waters. Because kelp attaches to the seafloor and eventually grows to the water’s surface and relies on sunlight to generate food and energy, kelp forests are always coastal and require shallow, relatively clear water. Kelps live further from the tropics than coral reefs, mangrove forests, and warm-water sea grass beds and hence, do not overlap with those systems.



  1. 1. They are recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth. Kelp forests provide important three-dimensional, underwater habitat that is home to hundreds or thousands of species of invertebrates, fishes, and other algae. Some species aggregate and spawn in kelp forests or utilize these areas as juvenile nursery habitat. Large predatory species of sharks and marine mammals are known to hunt in the long corridors that form in kelp forests between rows of individual plants.
  1. 2. Kelps also offer crucial services such as carbon sequestration and erosion control, according to scientists.
  2. 3. Giant kelp is harvested from kelp forests and used as a binding agent in products like ice cream, cereal, ranch dressing, yogurt, toothpaste, lotion and more.



  1. 1. Kelps are increasingly threatened by climate change, eutrophication and shoreline development, among other human-induced stressors. Destructive fishing practices, coastal pollution, and accidental damage caused by boat entanglement are known to negatively affect kelp forests.
  2. 2. Warmer than normal summers and seasonal changes to currents that bring fewer nutrients to kelp forests combine to weaken kelps and threaten their survival in some years.
  3. 3. Another threat is from bryozoa, moss animals that grow as mats on kelps. They drive the seaweed to sink into the seafloor and disintegrate. Large gatherings of sea urchins (a primary herbivore in kelp forests) can prevent kelp plants from growing large enough to form forests. The cycle between these so called “urchin barrens” and well-developed kelp forests is a well-studied phenomenon in regions that are favorable for forest formation.
  4. 4. Strong individual storms can wipe out large areas of kelp forest, by ripping the kelp plants from the seafloor.



Area based management (e.g., designation of marine protected areas) is known to be an effective way to protect kelp forests from excessive use or harm by people. The likes of  ‘The Sea Change Project’  are taking effective measures in protecting such ecosystems around the globe.