Kelp Forests & Rocky Reefs

A diver’s perspective from the floor of a kelp forest looking up into the sunlit surface. The stipes and blades of the giant bull kelp tower above. Bubbles from the diver are seen in the water column also rising to the surface.
Photo: Florian Graner / Copyright Sealife Productions

Kelp forests at Olympic Coast are composed primarily of two species: bull kelp and giant kelp, which together support a diversity of other species that find shelter and sustenance within this highly productive ecosystem. Understory kelp and algae interact continuously with fish, benthic invertebrates, and sea otters in a delicate balance that helps to maintain ecosystem stability and function and avoid the kelp forest declines experienced recently in parts of California and other marine ecosystems worldwide.

Click on the illustration below to access user-friendly, online tools that allow resource managers, scientists, educators, students, and the public to explore, discover, and summarize ecosystem trends at the sanctuary.

Illustration of a kelp forest habitat, with eight icons representing a variety of ecosystem components including kelp canopy, fish, sea otters, sea stars, and sea urchins.
Illustration of ecosystem components for kelp forests and rocky reefs habitats. Image: NOAA