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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.
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 FOUNDATION 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.
SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH
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
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.
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.