Kelp Forest Restoration

An urchin barren before  restoration (top) and healthy kelp regrowing after restoration (bottom). Photos by Tom Boyd. An urchin barren before restoration (top) and healthy kelp regrowing after restoration (bottom). Photos by Tom Boyd.

Palos Verdes Kelp Forests

Historically, Palos Verdes supported hundreds of acres of large, beautiful, productive, and stable kelp forests, home to hundreds of marine life species. Today, many of these forests have been displaced by extensive and persistent “urchin barrens”, overpopulated by purple sea urchins.

A partnership of environmental groups, public aquaria, fishermen and researchers—led by The Bay Foundation (TBF)—are setting the stage for replanting and restoring the kelp forests. Restoration efforts, which began in July 2013, are already beginning to reverse this trend and reestablish healthy kelp forests that provide food and habitat for many species as well as support local fisheries, increase recreational opportunities, and help protect our coast.

Progress to date:

34 acres of restored kelp forest in 4 coves.
4 commercial fishermen.
35 volunteer divers.
Over 6000 hours underwater restoring kelp.
Purple urchin density reduced from an average of 36 per square meter to 2 per square meter.


How to help…

This massive effort will restore over 150 acres of kelp forest. Work started July 2013 with our project partners and is expected to continue for the next four years.

We are always looking for volunteer scientific divers. Opportunities include restoration, various types of monitoring, and photography. Boats go out weekends and weekdays and the project will be ongoing until at least 2017.

“I can only compare these great aquatic forests…with the terrestrial ones in the intertropical regions. Yet if in any country a forest was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so many species of animals would perish as would here from the destruction of the kelp.”

– Charles Darwin, 1 June 1834 Tierra Del Fuego, Chile

Why Restore Kelp Forests?

Kelp Forests are like the tropical rainforests of the sea.

They support over 700 hundred species of invertebrates, other algae, and fish, many of which are popular with sport and commercial fishermen and recreational divers.

Giant kelp grows on rocky reefs from the lower intertidal to depths of 85 ft.  It can grow as much as a foot a day, but needs cold, clear, nutrient rich water to flourish.

In a healthy ecosystem, marine invertebrates like purple urchins eat drift kelp. Big spiny lobsters, sheephead, and sea stars eat urchins. Abalone compete with urchins for space and food.

Over the past 100 years, the Palos Verdes Peninsula has lost approximately 75% of its giant kelp canopy. Sedimentation, development, urban runoff and storms slowed kelp growth. At the same time, the loss of key urchin predators and competitors allowed urchins to overrun the reef and devour the remaining kelp.

Urchins Living in Barrens

These urchins are malnourished and tiny, often diseased, and of no value to the ecosystem nor fishermen. In contrast, urchins found living in kelp forests are healthier and have larger gonads (Uni), the edible part of the sea urchin. All our partners, including the sea urchin fishermen, understand this cycle, and are helping to bring the kelp back as quickly as possible.

urchins 5-12-11-16

Learn More

Documents and Reports

Press Release – Kelp Restoration Project Launch

Partner Statements

Urchin Paper

Abalone Paper

Project Report – July 2014 to June 2015

Project Partners

Montrose Settlement Restoration Program

LA Waterkeeper

California Science Center

Vantuna Research Group

Commercial Sea Urchin Harvesters

Tom Boyd Images

Visit our In the News page for stories on these projects.


Tom Boyd 2013