Like forests on land, kelp forests are diverse ecological communities with a canopy and a forest floor. The kelp and other plants provide natural habitats and food to support this community. Kelp forests are the source of a bountiful harvest of both plants and animals. A renewable natural resource that quickly regrows after the upper canopy has been cut off, this remarkable part of creation has been harvested for food for hundreds of years. It is an abundant natural source of minerals and vitamins. Today it is mainly harvested for algin which is used in ice cream, puddings, make-up, and many other products.
Kelp is a type of algae like other seaweeds. Algaes are simpler than most land plants and range in size from microscopic to the giant kelps that can grow over 100 feet long. Because of their remarkable size and complexity, as a group kelp have a huge impact on their environments. They grow in the shallows near the shore and out in the deep waters and contain the largest and fastest growing of the seaweeds. A Giant Kelp can grow to be 100 feet tall in its first year of life and may live for seven or more years and grow to be 150 feet long.
There are three basic parts to the kelp plant: the holdfast, stipe and blade. The holdfast is a root like growth that secures the kelp in place on a rock. Although it is root like, it does not gather nutrients or water from the soil as a plant root does. The holdfast is simply to hold the kelp plant fast to an anchor and thus its name is derived. The stipe is like a stem. It is through the stipe that the nutrients produced by photosynthesis travel from the upper parts of the plant to the lower parts. It is this sharing of nutrients that allows the plant to grow to such large sizes. The blade is like a leaf. It is the blade that absorbs water, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the surrounding seawater and it is in the blade that the process of photosynthesis takes place. The nutrients that are then produced are transported throughout the plant via the stipes.
Nutrients not used by the plant are stored in the plants cells and thereby the different parts of the plant, holdfast, stipes and blades make nutritious natural meals for the fish and invertebrates that dwell in the kelp forests. These nutrients can also be used by us through the responsible harvest and use of this marvelous renewable natural resource. It is for this reason and for the benefits they bring to the health of our bodies and skin that we add kelp and seaweed extracts to many of our 100% natural products.
Giant Kelp forests grow off the western coast of North America from Alaska to Baja California. They also grow along the western and southern parts of South America, the coasts of South Africa, southern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and islands near Antarctica. These Giant Kelp forests need a hard surface for attachment, lots of ocean nutrients, moderate wave motion and cool, clean water. As water temperatures rise above 70° F the kelp growth slows and deteriorates. Strong wave action can also be destructive to the Kelp forests, ripping the plants apart and disconnecting their holdfasts from the rocks.
As the pollution of our precious resources continues and global warming becomes more of a problem there could be many adverse affects on the kelp forests. The lack of clean water and the warming of the oceans could alter the ocean environment enough to prevent the growth of these natural ocean forests. With the earth's weather systems altering, the possibility of the increase in strong coastal storms could cause them irreparable damage. The kelp forests and the ecological communities they support are threatened by our irresponsible actions. We need to change our ways before it is too late.