Fighting for the ocean forests

27 May 2016, Comments Comments Off on Fighting for the ocean forests

Ocean forests of kelp could be felled by hungry limpets. S­o A Rocha UK and A Rocha International intern Hannah Hereward is monitoring these marauding molluscs.

Twenty-three-year-old marine researcher Hannah is pursuing her vital study at Lee Abbey – the popular Devon-based Christian retreat centre that’s part of A Rocha UK’s Partners In Action network.


She spends part of her time in Lee Bay on the centre’s estate, looking at the impact of blue-rayed limpets on kelp. This large seaweed is an essential component in the ocean’s eco-system.

‘Kelp in general is really important to study,’ said Hannah, ‘because it supports a whole range of other species. If the kelp forest reduces, many other species are likely to suffer – such as fish and crabs.’

According to Hannah, while much study has been carried out on urchin grazing on kelp, little research has been conducted on the impact of blue-rayed limpets.

‘This is surprising as blue-rayed limpets almost exclusively rely on kelp for shelter and food,’ she said. ‘In fact, since the 1980s there’s been very limited research conducted on kelp in the UK.’

Hannah has permanently marked kelp plants. She returns to them each month, to measure the growth rate, temperature stress and manipulate the grazing pressure from blue-rayed limpets.


A Rocha International marine scientist Robert Sluka reported that their marine work at Lee Abbey is going well. ‘Hannah is intending to map the different habitats on Lee Bay beach,’ he explained.

‘Hannah is also producing a “Top Ten Scavenger Hunt” specifically for marine species on Lee Bay, for families – and any adults who feel so inclined. This resource will be ready for use in mid-June.’

A Rocha UK supporters can engage in marine conservation by joining Hannah Hereward and the Lee Abbey team for a beach clean on 8th June, World Oceans Day. (Pictured above – Hannah and A Rocha Canada alumna Jo Greenwood measure kelp; pictured left – A Rocha International’s Acting Director of Conservation Science Jeremy Lindsell uses a drone to monitor marine life at Lee Bay. Photos by Robert Sluka)


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