“I can only compare these great aquatic forests with the terrestrial ones in the inter-tropical region. 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

HOME OF THE OCTOPUS TEACHER

The Great African Seaforest

Darwin might have been referring to the kelp forests he saw around the Galapagos Islands, but his statement holds true for all healthy, functioning kelp forest ecosystems on the planet.

The Great African Seaforest home to My Octopus Teacher, is an underwater wonder. It is the only forest of giant bamboo kelp on our planet, harbouring other-worldly creatures, startling abundance, and rich biodiversity. This enormous habitat fringes the shores of Cape Town and stretches north for more than 1000km into Namibia. In contrast to many kelp forests that are shrinking, shifting, and in numerous cases, even disappearing, the Great African Seaforest is thought to be growing.

In order to create awareness around the kelp forest for its long-term protection, we decided that it needed an identity. Something that would capture public attention and allow us to share its stories in a more compelling way. Out of this, the name, “Great African Seaforest” arose.

What makes this ecosystem so exciting to us, is that so much of the Great African Seaforest and its inhabitants have never been studied. In this place, it is not uncommon to find new species or new animal behaviours on a daily basis. The value that comes through sparking this curiosity for the natural world is priceless.

“What’s so amazing about this environment is you’re in a three-dimensional forest and you can jump off the top and go anywhere you want, you’re flying basically…The animals are exotic and strange. It’s much more extreme than our maddest science fiction.”
CRAIG FOSTER

PROTECTION & REGENERATION

Why the Great African Seaforest is Important

THE HUMAN SPECIES HAS AN ANCIENT HISTORY WITH THE GREAT AFRICAN SEAFOREST

The oldest archaeological evidence of art and science has been found here. It is thought that this coastline gave rise to the birth of human consciousness as we know it. This environment is part of every human being’s origins.

KELP IS CONSIDERED A KEYSTONE SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEM ENGINEER

The two dominant canopy-forming kelp plants in the Great African Seaforest are the sea bamboo Ecklonia maxima and the Split-fan kelp Laminaria pallida.

KELP PROVIDES REFUGE, SHELTER, AND FEEDING GROUNDS

As a three-dimensional ecosystem it provides home, shelter, nursing, and feeding grounds for thousands of species, including the Octopus Teacher’s descendants. A large number of these species are endemic to the region, with many yet to be described.

KELP HELPS REGENERATE THE OCEANS

Kelp forests have been identified as key ecosystems for regeneration in the world’s oceans.

KELP REDUCES CO2 IN THE WATER

The carbon sequestered by kelp forests is comparable to that of mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass meadows combined. Reducing the amount of CO2 in the water also reduces local ocean acidification making the seaforest a refuge for marine life.

KELP PROTECTS THE COASTLINES

The kelp forest protects our coastline from storm surges and rising seas, mitigating coastal erosion.

KELP HELPS US CONNECT TO THE WILD

It is a wild space for people to visit and connect to, reminding us that we are part of the natural world.

“I need no convincing that an ecosystem such as this is of inestimable value & must be protected.”

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH

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ABOUT KELP FORESTS

Kelp forests are highly productive near-shore marine ecosystems and play a critical role in maintaining a stable climate.

Kelp forests’ unique structure provides a three-dimensional habitat for thousands of marine species. They cover about 25% of the world’s coastline and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Considered the “coral reefs” of cold and temperate waters, kelp ecosystems play a critical role in maintaining a stable climate. Like coral reefs, they are incredibly vulnerable to climate change.

As our oceans warm, kelp forests are changing their distribution at an increasing and concerning rate. Over the last decades 38% of the globally assessed kelp forests have shown an overall decline, whereas only 27% increased, leading to a predicted annual global kelp forest loss of 2%.

Worldwide many previously abundant seaforests are now urchin barrens, or meadows of miniature so-called turf algae that cover the sea floor. These changes are considered irreversible. Kelp forests are particularly vulnerable to such state shifts and unlike other, more iconic ecosystems like coral reefs or rainforests, the decline of kelp forests is going largely unnoticed.

Global Kelp Forests Under Pressure

Kelp forests are large underwater forests that cover about 25% of the earth’s coastline. As our climate changes, so do they.
Regions that have experienced drastic declines
Regions with big changes, including declines
Kelp forests are mostly stable

The Threats Facing the Great African Seaforest

In contrast to many kelp forests, that are shrinking, shifting, and in some cases even disappearing, the Great African Seaforest is thought to be growing. Because this habitat is intact, we have a critical opportunity to preserve it, but like all natural ecosystems, it faces increasing pressures. Perhaps the most pressing is a lack of knowledge and awareness.

Overfishing, commercially and recreationally, has caused drastic declines in ecologically important species which results in the loss of diversity globally.
Lack of knowledge and awareness makes it challenging to advocate for its protection.
Plastic pollution is a massive threat with an abundance of microplastics ending up within the seaforest’s marine life.
Oceans are connected systems and mining disturbances could have a devastating impact on the seaforest. Vast tracts of South Africa’s ocean territory have been earmarked for mining exploration.
Chemical waste from the Western Cape exposes marine life to pollution.
Ocean acidification, rising sea temperatures threaten seaforests, and many of them are disappearing.
Poaching contributes to the drastic decimation of rock lobsters and abalone that play important ecological roles in the kelp forest.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Protect & Take Action

Lack of knowledge and awareness, and our human impact on this planet are at the root of all threats to the Great African Seaforest. We are in the ocean every day, learning the secrets of the seaforest and finding stories that inspire people to fall in love with it. By sharing these stories, people all over the world, including local decision-makers, will recognise the value of this special place. To help us make the Great African Seaforest an iconic wilderness please watch, donate and share.