Key Findings

Transformative Research at SBC LTER
Canopy of a giant kelp forest as seen from a small boat in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Key findings from SBC research are contributing to significant advances in our understanding of the environmental, ecological and anthropogenic processes that shape kelp forest ecosystems over a range of temporal and spatial scales. SBC researchers are challenging paradigms about drivers of kelp forest dynamics, extending the view from space to deeper waters and expanding the potential for enhancing fishery management through active collaboration between fishery participants and scientists.

Wave Impact
For years, scientists have debated whether nutrient inputs or herbivory exert greater influence on the growth of giant kelp forests. SBC scientists discovered that wave disturbance has a surprising and overwhelming influence on kelp forest growth. This discovery has important implications for how climate change may impact these sensitive and crucial coastal ecosystems.
Watching from Space
Although surface characteristics of the ocean have been measured from space for years, SBC scientists have now taken advantage of new remote sensing technology to study giant kelp forests over time scales ranging from weeks to decades. Our results demonstrate the value of high-resolution satellite imagery for observing long-term effects of climate change and human activities on sensitive marine ecosystems.
Working Together
SBC scientists have cultivated new working relationships with the fishing industry to establish mutual learning for improved fisheries management. Scientists incorporated local ecological knowledge shared by commercial fishing participants into assessments of marine reserves and fish populations, and fishers adopted a community-based approach for monitoring the condition of their fisheries.