“A little over a year ago these giant kelp were just tiny brown smudges on a laboratory plate.
Now they are pillars of hope in the fight to save Tasmania’s giant kelp forests from extinction.
Cayne Layton and his team of scientists from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) began a selective breeding trial by collecting spores from the special reproductive leaves of some of the state’s last remaining giant kelp.
Those spores were then fertilised on small plastic plates in a Hobart laboratory and cared for until they became giant kelp cultures — still less than a millimetre long.
The plates were transported to specially chosen sites off Tasmania’s south-east coast and bolted to the ocean floor using an undersea drill.
A year on, the first results are in.
“It’s an exciting indication for us about what we can achieve through our selective breeding.”
Giant kelp a vanishing species
Giant kelp is the world’s largest marine algae, reaching 40 metres tall and growing at a rate of up to 50 centimetres a day in ideal conditions.
The Giant Kelp Restoration Project was established as a desperate attempt to save the last of Tasmania’s beautiful and once widespread giant kelp forests.
In the space of one human lifetime, 95 per cent have vanished.
Scientists say that terrible rate of loss is due to the extension of the East Australian Current, which now brings warm, nutrient-poor water all the way along Tasmania’s east coast, replacing the cold, sub-Antarctic waters the kelp used to thrive in.
That sudden change in current is due to human-induced climate change.
Yet, 5 per cent of the forests did cling on — and it’s from those that Dr Layton and his team hope to rebuild those once-mighty forests….”