Drone images give hope for return of kelp on U.S. West coast

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GUALALA, Calif., Sep 29 (Businesshala) – Calm images of the Pacific Ocean taken by a drone show California’s kelp forests are making a comeback after years of depletion, bringing good news in the fight against climate change Huh.

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Kelp, which mitigates global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis, has died out dramatically along the coast of Northern California, up from 95% since 2013 due to rising ocean temperatures and disease in one study. The excess loss has been calculated.

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But a team from the environmental group Nature Conservancy has seen signs of a partial recovery of kelp forests during a drone survey off the coast of Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

The group first began trying to survey the kelp forest from the sky in 2019, but there was hardly anything to see, said Vienna Saccomano, who heads the Nature Conservancy’s kelp monitoring and mapping program. An explosion in the population of sea urchins, which consume kelp, added to the devastation.

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“There was just no kelp, literally, little or no kelp. And it’s so exciting as a scientist to be out here in 2021 and see this strong uptick in kelp,” he said.

Flying 400 feet (120 m) above, but close to shore, the drones take photographs that are then woven into a mosaic-like image to get a complete understanding of the kelp forests. Scientists have observed much more brown seaweed than in recent years, attributing the Sacomano to the recent uplift of the cold, nutrient-rich waters that help kelp thrive.

In 2019, the Nature Conservancy’s drone survey found the average size of a kelp canopy to be one acre, and this increased to 5.5 acres in 2020. The figures for this year are not out yet.

However, kelp umbrellas are still below the historical average.

“We know that this ecosystem is still not completely in balance and there is still restoration work to be done,” Saccomano said.

Kirk Klossmeier, director of data science for the California chapter of the Nature Conservancy, said drone technology is important for providing data on the health of kelp.

“When dealing with problems like this, we really have to get as much data as possible. And drones allow us to get really high-resolution imagery of individual kelp plants,” he said.

Reporting by Nathan Frandino Writing by Alistair Bell Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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