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One-third of Earth’s coastlines are home to a disregarded and overlooked ecosystem worth $500 billion.


Credit: Joe Belanger/Shutterstock

Underwater forests known as kelp have supported people and cultures for thousands of years. However, most of us are only vaguely aware of the vibrant masses of seaweed that hug the shores of the oceans around the Earth. Moreover, we do not realize how important and necessary it really is.

in a new study Posted today in Nature CommunicationsWe have produced the first global estimate of the economic value of kelp forests – revealing that they provide hundreds of billions of dollars in value to people around the world.

A human history of kelp

Along the Pacific Ocean, kelp harvesting has played an important role in Asian societies. In Japan, seaweed was among the marine products that people could use to pay taxes, According to the law of 701.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, kelp was used to fertilize the soil and increase crop yields, for processing GoiterIt was used to fortify building materials for centuries. In the 21st century, kelp forests are becoming the norm The main source of genesCommon food and medicinal additives.

And all this time I supported kelp crowded ecosystems And important Fisheries Abalone, lobsters and many different kinds of fish. Through its prolific productivity, kelp forests Extract carbon from the atmosphereexudes oxygen and helps reduce Ocean pollution with nutrients.

A marine marvel, hidden kelp forests abound Almost a third of the world’s coasts It is located 50 km away from 740 million people. If you live in London, Tokyo, New York, Vancouver, Santiago, Cape Town, Los Angeles or Lisbon, you have one of these ecosystems right on your doorstep.

However, it is forgotten or misunderstood. People are often unfamiliar with a kelp forest, and if they are, they may be more familiar with a pile of decomposing seaweed on the beach after a storm.

This disconnect has implications in the real world. Despite sitting next to some of the largest research centers on the planet it probably covers more of the seafloor than any other biotaResearch and conservation of kelp forests terribly behind other ecosystems.

This knowledge gap hinders much-needed work and conservation. kelp populations in Northern CaliforniaAnd Tasmaniaand the Salish sea disappeared into living memory. Elsewhere, it was kelp aggregations It is constantly declining over the past fifty years.

What we value and how we value it is actually a very complex process. And despite the fact that we make value judgments over and over every day, we have a really poor understanding of the value of something if it doesn’t have a price.

This forgotten and neglected ecosystem covers a third of the Earth's coastline, with a total value of $500 billion

The kelp forest is a rich habitat, providing oxygen and sequestering carbon. Credit: Andrew B Stowe/Shutterstock

Perhaps our natural world is the ultimate provider of value – everything we do in our communities is ultimately connected to nature, ecosystems, and a healthy planet. But because these processes and benefits happen with or without humans, they are often taken for granted.

So, what is the “value” of a kelp forest?

Our research combined data from across our oceans to produce a global estimate of the economic value of kelp forest ecosystems. Looking at six major genera of kelp—Macrocystis, Nereocystis, Laminaria, Saccharina, Ecklonia, and Lessonia—and the potential economic value of the fisheries they support, the carbon they pull from the atmosphere, and the nutritional pollution they remove from the water, we find that kelp forests are valued about 500 billion US dollars annually.

The highest of these values ​​were the removal of excess nitrogen from the water, which can lead to algal blooms, reduced water quality, and Eventually oxygen-depleted dead zones.

A close second were fisheries values ​​- kelp forests support some of our most popular fisheries, including lobster and abalone.

Finally, although carbon sequestration in kelp forests was found to be comparable to other terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the economic value was much lower, as society had not yet placed a high price on carbon. This result indicates that carbon balances may not be an economic driver for kelp conservation, but that kelp forests still play an important role in the blue carbon cycle.

The future of kelp

When nature is treated as a free gift, where we can take what we want and not pay for damages, this situation has direct consequences; People and the environment suffer.

First, it can mean that people and government do not see value in protecting and restoring ecosystems. Secondly, development projects are capable of destroying nature without compensating for those damages.

Finally, it leads to mismanagement. How can we manage something if we can’t quantify it? Imagine that you don’t know where your bank account is, or how much money is in it.

The fight to save our kelp forests is just beginning, and we need more action to protect these intrinsically and economically valuable marine ecosystems.

That’s why researchers like me started a non-profit organization Kelp Forest AllianceAnd now they have launched a program Kelp Forest Challengea global call to protect and restore 4 million hectares of kelp forests by 2040. This is a call for governments to fulfill their commitments to Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework And act now to save these ecosystems and #HelpTheKelp.

Introduction to the conversation

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.Conversation

the quote: Forgotten and Neglected Ecosystem Covers One Third of Earth’s Coastline, Total Value $500 Billion (2023, April 22) Retrieved April 22, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-forgotten-neglected-ecosystem-earth Coastlines. html

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