Restored giant kelp forests can buffer against climate change threats

As climate changes, coastal managers are concerned with accelerating shoreline erosion rates, amplified wave heights, and the disruption of coastal resources due to ocean acidification. Kelp and other aquatic vegetation are thought to reduce the force of ocean waves and balance the nearby seawater chemistry through their uptake of carbon dioxide. University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant funded a study to determine if restoring kelp forest habitats poses additional benefits for wave attenuation and balancing of seawater chemistry. The study measured water column chemistry across two differing kelp restoration sites in Palos Verdes and Monterey, California.

Key Results:

  • Kelp forests help with mixing: they measurably dampen the force of ocean waves and currents in their local vicinity, leading to water mixture extending to the ocean bottom and thus improving conditions for organisms that may be susceptible to hypoxia and ocean acidification 
  • These effects were documented before and after a successful kelp bed restoration


Project Impacts & Application:

  • Results were included in a 2021 Ocean Protection Council policy guidance document on Climate Change and Marine Protected Areas 
  • The project team presented at the Western Society of Naturalists Presidential Symposium and the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego


Principal Investigators

  • Kerry J. Nickols, Ph.D., California State University, Northridge 
  • Brian Gaylord, Ph.D., University of California, Davis
  • Tom Ford, The Bay Foundation



NOAA, 2018-2020


Additional Info


Access our Publications Database to view publications from this project or other related topics

Restoration map with urchin barrens mapped in 2010 (purple), restoration areas completed in 2013-14 (green) and 2015 (yellow), and areas in progress (blue).

Restoration map showing urchin barrens mapped, restoration areas completed, and ares in progress.

Google Earth images of the cliffside near Marguerite Reef in June 2018 and January 2020.

Google Earth images of the cliffside near Marguerite Reef in June 2018 and January 2020.