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   While I may not appreciate the growth rate and possible danger to the corals that this plant is capable of, I do appreciate the habitat that it provides for a good number of animals and coralline algae. Located just prior to where the corals start in a band that is about forty feet wide. This areas substrate is comprised of large boulders, most are not stationary and can be flipped over which happens on occasion when the locals can reach this area during the lowest of tides. The lava bed rock is most visible in this area as the sand is either locked up in zones 1 and 2 as well as this area being a crest, the last high point before it slopes down to deeper areas, making it subject to the forces of water movement. Once this kelp was almost destroyed in January 2007 due to extended cloud cover, I was able to see all of the substrate features for the first time. Besides the boulders, the lava bed rock has channels or small valleys (grooves) which provides a great deal of cover and hunting grounds for most of the reef's fish species. The most prevalent species are the wrasses. I was also quite surprised to note a great many eel species living in this area, something I was not aware of when the kelp was at its tallest. Something Linda wishes she had not found out about, as anything that looks like a snake gives her the willys, including the harmless medussa worms (synaptids) found in the grass beds. I assume with its many crevices and networks of holes and tunnels, along with be shaded all day makes for a great eel habitat since they are mostly nocturnal hunters to begin with.


  While the kelp acts to shade the substrate on which it is attached to, its many, long leafs act as surface area themselves, providing a place to live for many small, barely visible invertebrates and other small algae species. These in turn attract predators of course. Many of the smaller wrasse spend their day weaving through the leafs picking off their small prey items.
  Farther down, on the actual boulders, there are quite a few coralline algae species that encrust the surface areas of the boulders. I of course assume these algae to be of a low light loving species as they are in a fairly dark zone. There are also a good number of corals, most are dead, and I assume had colonized the boulder prior to the kelp putting them into the shade and smothering them. Every once in awhile though, I will find a small coral colony that is either tolerant of the low light, or is just hanging onto existence, usually a pocillopora species.
  Within the many holes and crevices of the boulders, any number of sponge and tunicate species can be found orientating themselves to the prevailing currents and avoiding direct sunlight. Of course, being a porous rock, also makes for plenty of living space for many of the smaller animals, such as any number of the copepods, amphipods, as well as an assortment of crab species. Such rocks must hold a great many worm species as well. Kind of like a little planet unto itself.

Summary:  Again, while I may worry about this kelps encroachment, it does provide for another habitat, which may in the long run, also benefit the coral reef area. With most of the large herbivore fish, as well as all of the sea urchins having been taken off of the reef, there is really nothing to control it other than a quirk of the weather.
  (A) - Nutrient Reduction, with its very fast paced growth rate, this plant must lock up a great quantity of dissolved nutrients. Although I see this plant eventually winning the war and taking over this entire area in due time, simply because of the steady increase in the human population of this island and its resultant run off.
  (B) -  A habitat, having dark recesses in which to hide and hunt in, allows many animals to find both food and security. Although I am not sure if the benefits of this plant being here will outweigh the risk to the more productive coral reef area.

Application within the Reef Keeping Hobby  - None that I can see, This plant is just far too large to be of practical use.

Translocation Study : Having spent a few years watching this kelp species gaining ground upon the coral reefs due to the removal of herbivores for human consumption, I have taken it upon myself to conduct a study to determine if the remaining sea urchin species will be able to control this invasive algae. To view this study, please click HERE.

The Human Factor  -  This is most likely the sole reason for this plant being where it is, or at least for its continued spread. With the slow, but steady increase in shore base nutrient run off, this plant has more than enough "fertilizer" to continue its growth and spread. With the collection of all sea urchins as well as over fishing the herbivore fish species, there are no natural controls. Also, just as in the shallower sections of this reef, when a very low tide occurs, any movable boulder, no matter its size, is flipped over and left "face" down. At first, I thought this might actually be of use in controlling  this plant, but I quickly remembered the multitudes of life found living on these boulders. Having their worlds turned upside down can not be a good thing, although it may be the only way to actually stop the spread of this plant. That alone is sad.

The collection and destruction of sea urchins only ensures that algae will continue to be a problem.

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This mirror is being hosted with the permissions of the original content creator for preservation and educational purposes.