“Kelps” are a class of brown algae that can grow to large sizes. They are attached to the ocean bottom, and many have flotation devices to buoy themselves to the water's surface. A number of species can be found in the intertidal, but far more impressive are the large forests of kelps that grow in water about 25 to 70 feet off shore. Much like terrestrial forests, these strands are made up of various species. In Point Loma they are dominated by giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera). Giant kelp is aptly named; it can grow up to 150 feet long as it forms a dense canopy after reaching the surface.
Kelp forests, such as the one off the coast of Cabrillo, are particularly appreciated for their high productivity and diversity. These thriving communities harbor an amazing variety of organisms because of the high productivity of these algae (kelps), the number of microhabitats (specialized living spaces characterized by their physical or biological structure) they provide, and the frequent disturbances that prevent domination by only a few species. Holdfasts, the convoluted structures that anchor kelps to the bottom, shelter more than 150 species of invertebrates seeking hiding places, food and living space. Other organisms live on the blades (analogous to leaves) and stipes (analogous to stems) of the kelp in different depths of the water column; some are associated with the surface canopy. Other animals shelter and hunt near the kelp. The net result is that more than 800 species have been identified in and around kelp forest communities of southern California.
Last updated: April 26, 2021