Eaglehawk Dive Centre

The Giant Kelp Forest (Macrocystis pyrifera)

giant kelp forest

Once common all along the ocean coasts of the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas, the Giant Kelp Forest has been declining due to climate change, and this has accelerated during the past decade - during this time we lost over 95% of the Giant Kelp Forest in this area. Last summer (2015-2016) we experienced an unusually severe El Nino event, which generated very high sea water temperatures in this area for a very extended period - as a result the remaining Giant Kelp Forest in this area suffered greatly, and died back to minimum levels. Since May 2016, we have had some extreme weather, unseasonally severe NE gales with huge seas, that has ripped out almost all of the remaining Giant Kkelp plants. While we are expecting that there will be some recovery of the Giant Kelp Forest during the cooler months, we cannot predict how much. At this stage, there is no sign of any Giant Kelp regeneration. Even if there is some regeneration before the end of 2016, this coming summer may be the last year that we have any Giant Kelp Forest in this area.

Although we have lost the Giant Kelp Forests, we do still have extensive areas of other kelps, eg Ecklonia, and Durvillaea Bull Kelp, that you will see on any of our shallower reef dives to 20m.

Under ideal conditions, the Giant Macrocystis Kelp can grow over 50cm per day, forming towering columns to the surface from up to 20 metres depth, creating an unique, shaded environment - swimming through the Giant Kelp Forest has been likened to flying through a rainforest, an amazing experience.

The unique habitat of the Giant Kelp Forest is home to a wide variety of smaller kelps and other algae, plus many animals including Weedy Seadragons, various wrasses, banded stingarees, skates, cowfish (boxfish), octopus and the occasional Bigbelly Seahorse, amongst many others. This was a relaxing dive suitable for divers of all levels of experience.

Watch some video of the Weedy Seadragon in the giant kelp forest.
Watch some video of the Giant Kelp Forest.

       

 

      

 


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