When most people think of marine animal communities, they think of coral reefs. However, there is one other type of community that arguably shows just as much life as coral reefs do: kelp forests.
So what animals live in kelp forests, and how do these communities work?
Members of Kelp Forest Communities
Kelp forests are located along the Pacific coasts of North and South America, in the waters of southern Africa and Australia, and have even been found in Antarctica! There are many animals that reside in kelp forests in these regions. Let’s take a look at them below!
One of the most famous animals that are often found around kelp forests is the sea otter. Being small animals, they often seek refuge in the kelp forests to escape predators or to stay safe during storms.
Sea otters also play a huge role in the kelp forest ecosystem as they feed on urchins, which can destroy kelp forests if their population becomes too dense.
Sea urchins, as stated above, also played a huge role in the marine ecosystem by feeding on kelp. While this helps keep the kelp population from exploding, it can also harm the ecosystem by reducing the forest (and therefore the protection and nutrients it brings to so many other animals).
Sea urchins usually move through kelp forests in “herds” which makes them especially dangerous for the kelp ecosystem. Luckily, sea otters enjoy eating sea urchins as much as sea urchins enjoy eating the kelp!
As expected, fish enjoy inhabiting kelp forests along with these other creatures. The most common type of fish to reside in these forests are the rockfish, as kelp usually latches onto rocky ocean bottoms. As these fish are often targeted by fishermen, kelp forests offer a safe refuge from fishing boats and nets.
Sea Lions and Seals
Sea lions and seals are two other animals who use kelp forests as a way to hide from predators. Saying this, they also appreciate the cafeteria that the kelp community has!
Sea lions and seals feast mainly on fish, and kelp forests have a lot of fish. When these animals stumble upon a kelp forest, it not only offers protection but also a hearty meal!
The size of great whales – up to 60,000 pounds – does not deter them from using the kelp forests. When hiding from orca whales, the gray whales will immerse themselves in kelp forests for better protection.
Gray whales also feed on invertebrates and crustaceans that are found in kelp forests.
Invertebrates are also a very common site in kelp forests!
Some invertebrates stay on the ocean floor of the kelp forests, barely moving. These include snails, sea stars, sand dollars, and shellfish. Other invertebrates that move around more in the forests include anemones, shellfish, squid, and jellyfish.
Invertebrates are one of the main food sources for many other animals that inhabit kelp forests, making them an essential part of the ecosystem.
While octopuses are also invertebrates, they deserve a special section. Octopuses are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet and have found many interesting ways to turn kelp forests into a true home and community.
A good movie to watch if you are interested in octopuses’ relationship with kelp forests is My Octopus Teacher, an original Netflix documentary.
Kelp forests are not just large bunches of kelp, but entire ecosystems that support and protect so many incredible marine animals. From whales to otters to octopuses to sea urchins, kelp forests are anything but boring!