There’s a forest in the extreme west of South Africa which very few people know much about. It’s 1,000km long but only around 100m wide, and also extends along the rocky coastline of Namibia. This forest is a kelp forest. Kelps are large brown seaweeds and there are two main species in southern Africa, Ecklonia maxima and Laminaria pallida. These form the canopy, and they are mostly a few metres tall, although Ecklonia can reach 17m.
The forest is as productive per unit area as a tropical rain forest and has a variety of diverse organisms. Many of the people who live on its fringes provide for themselves by extracting and selling food items from it, in a sense being modern “hunter-gatherers”. Some of these resources that live within kelp ecosystems are almost gone, and much of what is left is now collected illegally.
Around a quarter of the world's coastlines, along cool-water rocky coasts, are populated by kelp forests. With climate change, they are on the move. As a result, a working group was formed by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis to study these changes on a global scale. The study showed that kelp abundance is declining in 38% of world regions, but increasing in 27%. This means that almost two-thirds of global kelp forests are changing.