The undersea equivalent of tropical rainforests, kelp forests are one of Earth’s most diverse and beneficial ecosystems. But in California, the last few years have seen a near-complete annihilation of the kelp following a marine heatwave that started in 2013. Now, drone surveys are showing signs of recovery.

Why kelp forests are important

Kelps, a type of seaweed or extremely large brown algae, are capable of incredible growth. Under ideal conditions (cold, nutrient-rich waters), some kelp species can reach underwater heights of 150 feet and grow almost 18 inches in a single day!

Kelp forests act as a nursery and refuge for many marine animals, support fisheries, and defend coastlines against violent storms. Kelps also soak up vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the air via photosynthesis and act as a climate change mitigator.

So, it’s easy to understand why environmentalists and marine biologists have an interest in measuring the kelp…