Researchers are using 19th-century naval charts to help understand the decline of kelp and its impact on B.C. coastal habitats.
University of Victoria geographer Maycira Costa and her team, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, has created the first historical digital map of B.C.’s coastal kelp forests, aided with the use of British Admiralty charts from 1858 to 1956.
The map will help further investigate the loss of kelp forests, which scientists say are a rich ecosystem critical to many marine species.
“Kelp was considered a navigational hazard so the British carefully annotated all kelp forests on their charts,” Costa said in a university release.
“And the historical charts increase our understanding of kelp distribution over time.”
Costa says the new map will answer questions related to salmon, herring and other habitats that rely on kelp for protection and food, and comparing data between historical sketches and satellite images to understand habitat changes and why.
UVic says the research supports DFO initiatives focussing on kelp and other “ecologically significant species.”
Funding for the mapping project came from the DFO under the Oceans Protection Plan.