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What keeps ocean kelp forest ecosystems stable?

An ecosystem is made up of species, populations, communities and a network of communities across a region. A team led by National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded researchers at the University of California-Santa Barbara has shown how these different levels combine to form an ecosystem. Biodiversity is the key. The scientists were surprised to find synchrony in the health of different kelp forest patches. "Along the California coast, many other seaweed species live beneath giant kelp," said David Garrison, a program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences. "Kelp forests remain relatively stable because of the diversity and growth of these understory species. The understory may be very important for the fish and invertebrates that live in kelp beds." The research was conducted at NSF's Santa Barbara Coastal LTER site, which focuses on studying the links among kelp forests and other ocean habitats, as well as connections with ecosystems on land. The LTER, or Long-Term Ecological Research, site is one in a network of such NSF sites. The research was conducted in an underwater giant kelp forest off Santa Barbara.

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