Bull Kelp Forests are a vital part of the entire ecosystem of the Salish Sea, and provide habitat for creatures that are the foundation of the marine food web. Unfortunately, It appears that the kelp forests in the Salish Sea may be declining. This is of great concern, but there is little data about the previous sizes of kelp beds around Pender Islands other than anecdotal observations of long-time residents.
In order to reliably measure the changes in kelp beds, baseline data needs to be obtained. Thus, mapping projects were initiated around the Salish Sea, and for several years, teams from Mayne and Galiano have mapped kelp beds around their islands. Three years ago, with assistance from Sea Change Marine Conservation Society, Pender Islands Conservancy volunteers began monitoring sites on Pender, using a combination of satellite photos, land photos, and on-the-water-mapping using handheld GPS devices.
The mapping is always held during the lowest low tides of August, because that is when the kelp is the largest and easiest to see. Kelp beds near Thieves Bay, Hope Bay, and Brooks Point have been mapped in past years and we have been happy to find that the kelp beds in these sites appeared to be healthy and had not seemed to have declined.
This year, biologist Rob Underhill came over from Mayne Island to train volunteers on the new protocols for the and how to download the data from the GPSs. The beds at Hope Bay and Thieves Bay were mapped August 13 and 14, but we were unable to map Brooks Point this year due to a combination of high winds and last-minute time demands for some of our volunteers. Despite this disappointment the project was a success and volunteers had a wonderful and fun experience. Lots of wildlife were spotted, including many sea stars, kelp crabs and other crustaceans, seals, jellyfish, shorebirds, and many schools of tiny fish taking refuge in the kelp.
Thanks to all the volunteers, especially to Kathy Gilbert for taking on the job of entering the data, to Pat Holborn for not only loaning us her kayak, but delivering it as well, and to Amanda Griesbach who came over from Victoria to participate.
If you are handy with a canoe or kayak and are interested in participating in the mapping next summer, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. commitment involves a 4 hour day of training, and two 4 hour days of mapping. The training will likely be held at the end of July, and the mapping takes place during lowest tides of August.