The Great African Sea Forest

Browse & download a collection of underwater footage exploring a practically unknown underwater wonder-world on the doorstep of Cape Town.

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About the Great African Sea Forest

The Great African Sea Forest resembles an astounding underwater jungle and is one of the most productive ecosystems worldwide. Kelp forests are found in cold, nutrient-dense oceans and border one-third of the earth's coastlines. The Kelp (algae) itself is a powerful agent against climate change owing to its super power of carbon sequestration.

Biology

Physical Traits
  • There are three types of algae: Red, Green, and Brown. Kelp is considered Brown Algae (algae is interchangeable with the term seaweed).
  • Kelp has three primary structures: The holdfast (similar to a plants root system), the stipe (comparable to a stem), and the blades (parallel to leaves).
  • Sea Bamboo, the kelp species most prominent in the great african sea forest, floats owing to its hollow stipe and strong yet flexible structure that can withstand strong ocean currents and rough sea conditions.
Reproduction
  • The reproduction process of the Kelp Forest is known as the 'Alteration of Generations'. It is a process where an adult plant produces spores and emits them into the ocean.
  • The spores grow into female and male spores and come together to produce "sporophytes" (baby kelps, if you will), which anchor themselves to the sea floor and grow into giant Kelps.

Ecosystem

Creatures

  • Kelp forests are miraculous ecosystems with diversity, productivity, action, and beauty.
  • The Kelp forest is home to and provides refuge for millions of sea creatures. From loads of fish (such as the Hottentot seabream) to a heap shark species that are endemic to the southern African region (pyjama sharks, puffadder shysharks, dark shysharks, and leopard catsharks) to octopus, brittle stars, and oodles of astonishing multi-coloured nudibranchs (sea slugs).
  • The Sea Forest benefits more than those that call it home. For instance, seabirds benefit from Kelp forests by preying on the snails and crabs that live on the blades.

Structure and Balance

  • Similar to terrestrial Forests, Kelp forests can be divided into trophic levels: Canopy (the uppermost layer), Understory (the layer below the canopy), and Forest Floor (the bottom layer).
  • The thickness of the blades and fronds at the top of the Forest determines the amount of light that reaches the bottom layers, therefore affecting the productivity of the entire ecosystem.

Viability

Threats and Climate Change

  • Some Kelp forests are exposed to increased temperatures, deep sea mining, habitat destruction, pollution, and (or) coastal erosion. Different scales and combinations of these threats, and how they interact, shape and determine the state of the sea forests and how they will respond to change. This is why nearly one-third of the kelp forests are growing while one-third are deteriorating.
  • Kelp Forests also play a crucial role in combating climate change. Through a mechanism known as Carbon Sequestration, the Kelp Forest captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more efficiently than terrestrial Forests.

Conservation Status

  • In South Africa, the sea forests are thriving. Owing to the change in wind patterns, there is an increase in productive upwelling. The upwelling drives productivity and therefore underpins a more productive ecosystem.
  • Kelp forests in Australia (specifically on the coasts of Tasmania) are extremely depleted, as only 5% remain.

Current Research

  • Evidence suggests that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other methods of area-based management are productive methods to protect Kelp Forests.
  • In Kelp forests that are deteriorating, artificial seeds and kelp implants are being used to stimulate growth. In addition, there have also been calls for grazer removals (removing species that feed on kelp, such as sea urchins, fish,or abalone) and altering fishery regulations to improve Kelp Health.

Charisma Factor

  • Many humans know the feeling of walking through a forest. Dense hordes of trees tower overhead, each tree abounding with life in every crevice of bark. Birds swoop, sing, and soar amid the lush vegetation. Creatures of all kinds harmoniously tick, and we are often left in more serene, tranquil temperaments.
  • Fewer are fortunate enough to glide through and encounter the serenity found in the underwater labyrinth of a grand sea forest.
  • The crowded, thick masses of kelp proliferate life, similar to its terrestrial counterpart. When submerged into this ocean chaparral, fish, squid, and marine mammals of all kinds encompass, astonishing us outsiders with its dynamic splendour.

Myths and Legends

  • Greek mythology abounds with seaweed symbolism. One story tells a tale of a Greek fisherman who eats magic seaweed to bring his catch back to life.
  • In Hawaiian cultures, a piece of seaweed and coconut fibres is braided into people’s hair as part of a ceremony that binds people together and represents the God of Maui, who was protected by seaweed after he was abandoned by his mother.
  • Japanese folklore includes seaweed in much of their stories and legends. Seaweeds in Japan were used to pay debt and taxes, and today, seaweed farming is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
  • Korean cultures believe that after birth, mothers should replenish energy and nutrition levels through seaweed soup consumption.

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