Kelp is a type of seaweed (or marine algae) that describes 27 genera worldwide. Some kelps form dense patches on rocky reefs resembling a forest of trees underwater and are referred to as kelp forests. One third of southern California’s kelp forests are found within Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Kelp forests at the Channel Islands experience a mixing of both warm water currents from the south and cold water currents from the north creating a highly productive system and supporting an incredible abundance and diversity of marine life. Some examples of warmer water species include the Garibaldi fish, California moray eel and the California spiny lobster. Examples of colder water species include black rockfish, red abalone and the sunflower star.
Over 1,000 species of marine plants and animals can be found within Channel Islands kelp forests. The kelp forest floor is teeming with benthic invertebrates and understory algae. The kelp holdfasts, stipes (stalks) and blades create a three dimensional world of incredible biological diversity by providing numerous fish and invertebrates with food and protection. The thick kelp canopy acts as a shelter from predators and nursery habitat for juvenile fish.