New Insight into the Fate of Blue ‘Kelp’ Carbon


A new research paper in Nature Scientific Reports shows that detached kelp fragments can be transported many kilometers, and have the potential to rapidly reach the continental shelf where they can be consumed by deep sea animals or get buried into sediments. The research was conducted by Wernberg and Filbee-Dexter, from Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) and Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR), and funded by the Norwegian Research Council and the Norwegian Blue Forest Network.

Kelp forests are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth. They rapidly take up and store vast amounts of CO2 each year, most of which leaves the shallow rocky reefs as detached kelp detritus. Research to date suggests that a portion of this ‘blue carbon’ (carbon stored in oceans) becomes buried in marine sediments or reaches the deep sea, where it represents a sizable portion of the global carbon sink. But these estimates are highly uncertain, mainly because the fate of kelp carbon is largely a mystery and depends on how detached kelps are transported in the ocean. The findings by Wernberg and Filbee-Dexter and shed new light on the fate of kelp carbon, and suggest that kelp forests in shallow water can support deep sea communities and contribute to the global carbon sink.

The paper can be found here.

Kelp fragments and small kelp particles photographed by Thomas Wernberg in Malangenfjord, Troms during Norwegian Research Council-funded KELPEX project.