Kelp and eelgrass are climate change champions

Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows are imperative to combating climate change–and the Washington legislature should protect them.

If you have ever been to the beach in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve come in contact with kelp or eelgrass. But did you know that they do a lot more than just cling to your feet? Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows are imperative to combating climate change–and the Washington legislature should protect them. 

This year legislators are taking an ambitious step to preserve and protect 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows by 2040 with Senate Bill 5619.

Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows are geographically and ecologically diverse “blue carbon ecosystems.” The term blue carbon refers to the carbon that is captured by oceans and coastal ecosystems. These areas can sequester up to four times as much carbon by area as land forests! They also act as “carbon sinks” as seagrass meadows store 11 percent of the organic carbon buried in the oceans

Check out our figure below to see exactly how blue carbon ecosystems work: 

And that's not all these ecosystems do. Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows also play an important role for marine wildlife as  both food and habitat, and allow protection for maturing fish under their vast canopies.

But since the 1970s, kelp and eelgrass in the Puget Sound have rapidly disappeared. Scientists have pointed to warming waters due to climate change, increasing populations of purple urchins that consume large amounts of kelp, and the rivalry of invasive seaweed species as the main culprits. Protecting 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows is a critical step we can take to protect marine life and ecosystems from climate change and other threats. 

We want Washington legislators to know that their constituents support conserving kelp forests and eelgrass meadows. Please consider giving them a call right now to let them know you support this effort by calling 1-800-562-6000. You’ll talk to an operator who will take your zip code, and they’ll ask for the message that you want to leave for your legislators. You should ask them to “support Senate Bill 5629 to protect kelp forests and eelgrass meadows.” 

This bill is an ambitious step to conserve these special ecosystems. Let’s not waste it. 

Cover image by Jackdrafahl via pixabay