Say Hello to the Arctic Kelp Rush

kelp in a shape of tree t20 Ywy83m Say Hello to the Arctic Kelp Rush

Photograph courtesy of Ignacio Garrido In August 2019, an Arctic research vessel, the MV William Kennedy, anchored off the shore of Southampton Island, at the north end of Canada’s Hudson Bay. A group of researchers set off in a Zodiac, across waters that 30 years ago would have been covered with ice, even at this time of the year. Now there was only open water, revealing a seabed that had never before been mapped. Southampton Island was bare of any vegetation—scoured flat by ice. But beneath the waves was vibrant with color. Tangles of Saccharina latissima, or sugar kelp, floated in dense, five-meter canopies, olive green against the Arctic blue. Another algae, Laminaria solidungula, grew wide blades in bushy clumps. A bit deeper, the underwater forest graded to the leafy Agarum clathratum, known as sieve kelp, alongside a variety of red algae. Around the forest, the team found sea stars, brittlestars, clouds of mysid shrimps, and other crustaceans. “It was incredible,” says Karen Filbee-Dexter, who joined the expedition as a then-postdoc in biology at the University of Laval. “Some of those kelps were 10 meters long and really reminded me of those pictures you see off California of giant […]

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