A research lead by the Charles Darwin Foundation found a new kelp forest situated 50 meters deep in southern region of the Galapagos islands. To explore and document this new deep-sea ecosystem, the research team relied on technologies such as remotely operated vehicles. Kelps are brown algal seaweeds that can grow up to 50m in length and form dense marine matts. These forests are critical for the preservation of marine biodiversity, as they provide food, breeding grounds and protection for a variety of species.
Kelps are typically found in cold-water, shallow, coastal areas. However, the Galapagos kelp forest is located in a tropical region away from coastal areas. This is the first time such a large and dense kelp forest has been discovered in this part of the Galapagos and at such depths, despite low levels of light and macronutrients. Only one species of tropical kelp the Eisenia galapagensis was known to exist in the Galapagos.
This new species found could be a potential new species of Eisenia. This research identifies critical knowledge gaps regarding the distribution of kelp species in tropical zones, as well as how their lack of visibility from the surface prevents them from being included in current conservation strategies.