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The Kelp Forest Food Web

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  • 0:00 What Are Kelp Forests?
  • 0:38 Definition of a Food Web
  • 1:34 Definition of Kelp
  • 2:09 The Kelp Forest Food Web
  • 3:01 Threats to the Kelp…
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson is on the kelp forest food web. In this lesson, we'll learn what kelp is and where kelp forests are located. We'll also cover some food web basics and learn about the food web for one kelp forest.

What Are Kelp Forests?

Picture a forest. You're probably thinking of a wooded area, maybe with pine trees or great oaks. This is a terrestrial forest. But, beneath the surface of the ocean lies lush, thick forests that rival any forest on land. Theses dense forests are called kelp forests and are home to many unique species of animals. Today we'll look at how a kelp forest sustains itself using a diagram called a food web.

Definition of a Food Web

A food web shows the transfer of energy between species. Energy is transferred as food, so a food web shows what eats what in an ecosystem. A food web is complex, involving many species, and is a combination of many food chains. Food webs are separated into layers called trophic levels. The bottom trophic level is made of producers. Producers make their own food, providing energy for the rest of the ecosystem. Producers are usually plants, but can also be algae or bacteria.

Primary consumers are herbivores and only eat plants, or producers. Secondary consumers are carnivores (meat eaters) and eat the primary consumers. Tertiary consumers are the top predators in the food chain and eat both primary and secondary consumers, keeping the food web in balance.

Definition of Kelp

Kelp is a large seaweed growing in cold coastal waters. Although kelp is classified as an algae, not a plant, it is far from the tiny algae we see growing in our home aquariums. Kelp can grow up to 90 feet from the bottom of the ocean floor! Kelp is an important part of coastal ecosystems, providing energy for hundreds of unique species. Humans also harvest kelp for food and to maintain fisheries. Let's take a closer look at what all lives in the kelp forests.

The Kelp Forest Food Web

Kelp forests are dense areas of kelp growth that occur near coastal waters. They are the producers of the ecosystem providing energy for primary consumers, like sea urchins, sea stars, jellyfish, crabs and snails. Sea urchins most notably can burn through a kelp forest, eating their holdfasts, which attach the kelp to the sea floor. Sea urchin populations are kept in check by secondary consumers, like sea otters.

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