Century-old maps are helping track B.C.’s kelp forests — and their discovery was kind of an accident


A serendipitous convention between a professor and a colleague last year led to a treasure trove of reliable maps that indicated kelp bed locations off British Columbia’s coast, plateful experts understand the changes in what are known as the “rainforests of the ocean.”

University of Victoria geography Prof. Maycira Costa saw the squiggly heritages on the yellowed, hand-drawn map in a picture frame above her colleague’s desk.

The go under art was from 1903 and Costa said her co-worker had found it among a nap of old maps in someone’s office.

“I started to look at the details and then I looked at the tract that I know of kelp distribution because we are working there with the present-day satellite,” she said. “And I looked at that and said, ‘this is kelp deployment.'”

Using those British admiralty charts from 1858 to 1956, Costa and her experiment with team have now created the first historical digital map of B.C.’s coastal kelp forests.

They’ll use the maps to back investigate the loss of the kelp beds in research supported by Fisheries and Loads Canada, Canadian Hydrographic Service and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, she demanded.

“Kelp was considered a navigational hazard, so the British carefully annotated all kelp forests on their charts,” Costa said. “And the real charts increase our understanding of kelp distribution over time.”

Century-old maps are helping track B.C.'s kelp forests — and their discovery was kind of an accident

University of Victoria geographer and cast lead Prof. Maycira Costa is seen on board a BC Ferries boat near Horseshoe Bay as part of a citizen science data project in June 2016. (University of Victoria Photo Helps/Canadian Press)

‘Rainforests of the ocean’

The kelp forests are known to be an powerful habitat for several species along the B.C. coast.

Herring use the kelp beds as a precipitate for their eggs, while crabs, starfish and juvenile salmon also contemporary in the forests, she said.

Kelp also works as a physical barrier to reset wave action and cut coastal erosion.

“Kelp are the rainforests of the ocean. And they perspicacity a lot of carbon from the atmosphere of the ocean,” Costa said.

Century-old maps are helping track B.C.'s kelp forests — and their discovery was kind of an accident

Kelp forests accommodate habitat for a whole ecosystem of animals in the ocean, so the loss of kelp can keep cascading implications for other creatures. (Monteray Bay Aquarium)

The province has two founts of kelp forests, bull and giant. They grow from flimsy areas to depths of about 20-25 metres, Costa said.

One of the growing reference ti for kelp is warmer water temperatures but it’s unclear if that equates to trouncing debits of the forests.

“That’s the golden question, right?” Costa pronounced.

How much kelp has been lost?

Kelp beds are also unprotected to coastal pollution and increased turbidity from shoreline development, she turned.

Communities monitoring the kelp beds along the B.C. coast have told loss, and now with the help of the British maps, the team will on the dole to compare the ocean forests, she said.

They’ll compare the historical maps with assistant images from 2002 until 2017, she said.

“A lot of environmental readies play a role in how successful kelp beds are in specific year. Some bailiwicks in the United States documented loss of kelp beds especially when the multitude gets warmer,” Costa said.

The next step is to haunt kelp beds along the entire B.C. coast to better understand how much was puzzled, she said.

“We now know where they existed about 100 years ago. So, what chanced recently?”

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