New grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation expands kelp forest monitoring in Puget Sound, a vital step towards preserving regional ecosystems.
Today, Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced the launch of a multi-year, comprehensive kelp forest monitoring initiative as part of their larger ongoing kelp program. Puget Sound kelp forests are currently in decline due to threats from pollution and climate change.
These kelp forests are fundamental to our marine ecosystem, and play a critical role in fishing, marine recreation, and food security. Puget Sound kelp beds are showing signs of stress, either decreasing in size or disappearing entirely in some areas. In the South Puget Sound, 80 percent of bull kelp has been lost in the last 50 years, and bull kelp beds once found around Bainbridge Island have disappeared entirely.
“Kelp is a powerhouse in the marine ecosystem, mitigating ocean acidification, and transforming sunlight and carbon dioxide into food for many of the fish, crab, and shellfish that sustain the Pacific Northwest,” said Betsy Peabody, Executive Director of PSRF. “Kelp forests are cultural keystone habitats for Tribal communities, who continue to depend on kelp for traditional foods, livelihoods, and customs. This program will put eyes, both human and electronic, in the water to monitor kelp so we can determine the best actions to protect these vital underwater forests.”
Continuing its legacy of filling data gaps in the interest of species and ecosystem protection, the foundation is supporting PSRF and its partners to significantly expand underwater kelp monitoring in Puget Sound.
“We’re very excited to support this project that brings together dedicated partners to create a monitoring network based on new and existing technologies, including the use of underwater robotics,” said Kirk Larsen, Senior Program Officer on behalf of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “It also enlists divers as volunteers to collect data that will support regional kelp conservation efforts.”
This new monitoring grant expands the deployment of underwater kelp monitoring sites, enlists and trains partners and divers in standardized survey protocols, and develops and deploys new technology to provide real time sensor and video data. Partners on this grant include Reef Check Foundation to organize and train the volunteer diver network, and The Bay Foundation and Marauder Robotics to develop, activate, and field-test new robotic monitoring technology.
“I just want to be able to contribute to marine science in a meaningful way,” said Zack Dixon, a Reef Check volunteer diver. “Of all the pressing environmental issues that are happening right now, ocean biodiversity and conservation is one of the most important and so deserves the most attention as soon as possible.”
PSRF will continue to work with grant partners to engage and build partnerships across multiple sectors, including with Tribal Nations, resource agencies, restaurants, environmental groups, fisheries, NGOs and local communities, that depend on or actively support the conservation of Puget Sound. Documenting the environmental integrity of kelp forests is a critical step in developing effective conservation policy and management, and in raising awareness about the critical role kelp plays in local ecosystems and communities.
Visit www.restorationfund.org/programs/eyesonkelp/ to learn more about the monitoring initiative, and find additional resources, images, videos, and more in the Eyes on Kelp Media Hub.
About Puget Sound Restoration Fund
Puget Sound Restoration Fund works collaboratively to restore marine habitat, water quality, and native species in Puget Sound through in-water projects. We are committed to a vision of a clean and healthy Sound that is productive, full of life, and capable of sustaining us. The populations we rebuild to achieve that vision are key to maintaining ecosystem health. In all of our programs, we strive to re-forge connections between people and resources. Learn more at www.restorationfund.org.
About the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
Founded by philanthropists Jody Allen and the late Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, the foundation initially invested in community needs across the Pacific Northwest with a focus on regional arts, under-served populations, and the environment. Today, the foundation supports a global portfolio of frontline partners working to preserve ocean health, protect wildlife, combat climate change, and strengthen communities. The foundation invests in grantees to leverage technology, fill data and science gaps, and drive positive public policy to advance knowledge and enable lasting change. Learn more at www.pgafamilyfoundation.org.