Giant kelp and bull kelp forests are increasingly at risk from marine heatwave events, herbivore outbreaks, and the loss or alterations in the behavior of key herbivore predators. The dynamic floating canopy of these kelps is well-suited to study via satellite imagery, which provides high temporal and spatial resolution data of floating kelp canopy across the western United States and Mexico. However, the size and complexity of the satellite image dataset has made ecological analysis difficult for scientists and managers. To increase accessibility of this rich dataset, we created Kelpwatch, a web-based visualization and analysis tool. This tool allows researchers and managers to quantify kelp forest change in response to disturbances, assess historical trends, and allow for effective and actionable kelp forest management. Here, we demonstrate how Kelpwatch can be used to analyze long-term trends in kelp canopy across regions, quantify spatial variability in the response to and recovery from the 2014 to 2016 marine heatwave events, and provide a local analysis of kelp canopy status around the Monterey Peninsula, California. We found that 18.6% of regional sites displayed a significant trend in kelp canopy area over the past 38 years and that there was a latitudinal response to heatwave events for each kelp species. The recovery from heatwave events was more variable across space, with some local areas like Bahía Tortugas in Baja California Sur showing high recovery while kelp canopies around the Monterey Peninsula continued a slow decline and patchy recovery compared to the rest of the Central California region. Kelpwatch provides near real time spatial data and analysis support and makes complex earth observation data actionable for scientists and managers, which can help identify areas for research, monitoring, and management efforts.
This content will become publicly available on June 1, 2024
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Ecological Applications
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Pérez-Matus, Alejandro (Ed.)
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