Journal/Organization: Report by SeaForester, NIVA, Akvaplan-niva.

Author(s): Jan Verbeek, Inês Louro, Hartvig Christie, Pernilla M. Carlsson, Sanna Matsson, Paul E. Renaud (2021)

Date: June 6, 2021

We all think about deforestation and the devastating disappearance of forests on land, from
the burning of the Amazon to wildfires in southern Europe, Siberia and California. But
something similar has happened under the ocean completely out of view that destroyed
Norway’s kelp forests across an estimated 8400 km2
The loss of sea urchin predators led to a population explosion of the green sea urchin,
Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, causing the largest overgrazing events ever observed in
the NE Atlantic around the early 1970s. Highly productive kelp forests were transformed into
desert-like urchin barrens that have persisted for many decades, impeding coastal
communities from fully benefitting from the goods and services these habitats provide.
Norwegian kelp forests are important carbon sinks and nutrient filters, as well as focal points
for high biodiversity and abundances of commercial fish species, generating an estimated
€16.7 million per km2 per year. In comparison, boreal forests are valued at about €0.24 million
per km2
, which makes kelp forests 70 times more valuable than their terrestrial counterparts.
Today, urchin barrens still dominate around 5000 km2 and if restored back to kelp forests
would provide an extra €83.6 billion per year – a value 3 times as high as all of Norway’s
terrestrial forests combined.
There is no doubt that if Norway lost all its trees today, there would be a public outcry over
their disappearance and calls for immediate restoration actions; a perception that must be
adopted for kelp forest ecosystems to firmly establish their conservation and restoration as
an integral part on political agendas.
Now is the time to move kelp forests into the spotlight by demonstrating the true potential
these marine habitats have to support coastal communities and foster the blue economy.