Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
August 2009 Issue
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New life for Adelaide's kelp forests


Leading scientists from the University of Adelaide believe kelp forests along the Adelaide metropolitan coastline - once considered to be declining due to human activity - will be brought back to life thanks to the State Government's new water initiatives.

The scientists, led by Associate Professor Sean Connell, have been working with the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH) to better understand the effects of nutrients and sediment discharge on kelp forests around the southern coast of Australia.

Patricia von Baumgarten, Principal Marine Policy Adviser with DEH, said this was a good example of how scientists and policy makers were working together for the benefit of the environment.

"Both stormwater and wastewater discharge has directly led to the loss of iconic kelp forests, which are important habitats for fish and other marine organisms," she said.

"The loss of kelp forests has implications for the whole marine food chain in the Gulf St Vincent.

"However, with the release of the 'Water for Good' plan and the development of the Adelaide Coastal Water Quality Improvement Plan, scientists believe that these new initiatives will improve the health of the Gulf and encourage the return of the kelp forests."

Associate Professor Connell said scientists initially noticed the decline in kelp in the 1990s, and predicted that the problem would be exacerbated by global warming as ocean water began to acidify.

"Recent research has shown that water in the Gulf has started to improve due to a number of factors, including initiatives from wastewater treatment," said Associate Professor Connell, from the University's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

"Further improvements in water quality are expected through achieving the targets of the Adelaide Coastal Waters Study and the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Regional Natural Resource Management Plan.

"More specifically, if nutrient levels in the water are sufficiently reduced through such initiatives, research suggests that healthy kelp forests can re-establish and be maintained even in the face of climate change."

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