Tragically, a meager 5% of Northern California's lush kelp forests survive

California's kelp forests are as impressive as our redwoods. Diving in a kelp forest is enchanting, the ecosystem is amazingly beautiful. In Northern California, it may be a forgotten memory.

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A new study using satellite imagery and underwater surveys is the latest to confirm that these majestic marine ecosystems have all but disappeared, reports Tara Duggan for the San Francisco Chronicle. Satellite images dating back to 1985 show that bull kelp forests off Sonoma and Mendocino counties have declined by a devastating 95 percent since 2013, and, according to the Chronicle, researchers are concerned the kelp may not be able to bounce back anytime soon.Dirtybird Womxn in Music, and other top stories from March 14, 2021.PauseNext video0:38 / 0:54SettingsVoltaxFull-screen

The results, reported last week in the journal Communications Biology, are the first to use satellite images to quantify the ecological losses that have racked up over the last eight years, the Associated Press reports. Across the more than 200 miles of coast encompassed by the study, kelp forests have been almost completely replaced by barren stretches of sea floor covered in spiky purple sea urchins.

Purple sea urchins are marine grazers that love to munch on kelp, and in 2013 one of their biggest predators, the sunflower sea star, abruptly started wasting away due to a still-mysterious disease that has ravaged the many-armed invertebrates from Mexico to Alaska.

These forests were so dense this is nearly unimaginable. The ocean has shown us, however, that it can rebound very quick and surprise us. Abalone populations were returning after mass over fishing, and the Giant Sea Bass is now regularly seen in the southern Channel Islands again.