GEAK Network Holds First Workshop

| July 25th, 2022 | Highlights

GEAK NETWORK HOLDS FIRST WORKSHOP

GEAK workshop participants gathered at the Institute of Marine Research in Arendal, Norway

In June 2022, the Global Ecosystem services Assessment from Kelp forests (GEAK) network held its first in-person workshop at the Institute of Marine Research in Arendal, Norway. The network brings together kelp and seaweed experts and environmental economists to complete a global synthesis of the range of benefits that kelp forests provide to people around the world. The network is comprised of 32 kelp and seaweed experts, restoration practitioners and environmental economists, including six postdocs from Norway, Canada, Spain, Chile, USA, Germany and Australia and four PhD and Master students from South Africa, Canada, Australia and United Kingdom.

Figure 1: Ecoregions in blue show areas for completed GEAK data collection on kelp ecosystem services. Dark blue indicates regions where data were divided into two categories based on relevant political boundaries (e.g, countries, or states).

Figure 2: Mapping the ecosystem services of seaweed forests. From Filbee-Dexter et al. 2022

The world’s kelp forests are extensive vegetated marine ecosystems that cover over a quarter of the world’s coastlines. Kelp forests provide extensive benefits to humans, including 14 of the 18 contributions of nature to people identified by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Although scientific interest in kelp forest ecosystem services have increased within the past decade, there are a lack of studies valuating services explicitly from kelp forests and research effort on this topic lags decades behind other ecosystems. Current economic valuations of kelp are state-specific and heavily dominated by direct-use services such as fisheries and kelp harvest, yet these are most likely a considerable underestimation because they do not include the numerous cultural values, as well as their role in carbon storage, nutrient filtration, and biodiversity provision.

The aim of the workshop was to contribute to quantifying the extent and value of ecosystem services provided by kelp forests in the coastal zone. Major outcomes of the workshop included the first comprehensive assessment of the ecosystem services provided by kelp forests, as well as a spatially explicit understanding of existing knowledge as well as knowledge gaps surrounding kelp forest function and services. This knowledge can be used in future research, policy and management decisions regarding kelp forests and coastal ecosystems more broadly. The workshop also began the process of finalizing a high-profile scientific paper, as well as three additional outputs on kelp forest ecosystem services that are to be completed in 2023. At the time of publication, a popular science piece in The Conversation will also be written, to ensure these outputs reach the widest possible audience.

This workshop was partially supported by the Norwegian Blue Forests Network.

The video ‘Kelp: South Africa’s golden forests’ is by Akshata Mehta of the BlueConnect project.

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