By Arieanna Balbar
There are luxuriant kelp forests along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, according to a survey we completed this past August as part of my research as a graduate student. I was a member of a team of 8 oceanographers from Dalhousie University, who completed a six-day video survey within the boundaries of the proposed Area of Interest. Professor Anna Metaxas, who holds joint appointments in the departments of Oceanography and Biology, led our team. Our goal was to learn more about the kelp forests in this region. Video surveys provided us with a non-destructive way to explore what lies below these waters.
Fortunately, we experienced good weather and were able to survey 17 protected and wave-exposed sites along the island archipelago. In many of the exposed sites, overlapping kelp plants swayed back and forth, almost completely covering the bedrock. These kelp forests also harboured fish, including cunner and pollock. The two species of kelp we found most frequently are commonly known as finger kelp and sugar kelp, but occasionally we also found sieve kelp and winged kelp. Some of the kelps were longer than three metres and appeared to be healthy.
We had hoped that kelp forests would be healthy along this part of the coast compared to the South Shore, where kelp has been lost because of high temperatures and invasive species over the past few decades. We will continue to investigate why kelps are healthier on the Eastern Shore, but we think it is likely because of cooler temperatures.
We hope that our research will provide basic knowledge for the proposed Marine Protected Area. This was the first trip to the Eastern Shore for our Dalhousie group but will not be the last. We plan to expand the research to monitor temperature and other factors that may explain why kelp forests are so extensive.