Kyle Cavanaugh, University of California-Los Angeles, NSF Santa  Barbara Coastal LTER Site

Giant kelp is an example of a foundation species—one that physically modifies its environment and provides food and habitat for an entire ecological community. In contrast to long-lived foundation species such as forests, coral reefs and mangroves, giant kelp has a short life span, leading to fluctuations in its abundance and its genetics. Long-term research at the NSF Santa Barbara Coastal LTER Site is yielding new insights into how giant kelp populations vary and what impact they have on coastal ecosystems.