Joey Peters awarded Coastal Fund for research in Santa Barbara Channel

June 10, 2017

Congratulations to PhD student Joey Peters for receiving the UC Santa Barbara Coastal Fund to conduct research on consumer-mediated nutrient cycling in kelp forests. Interested? Read about Joey's project below 

Consumer-mediated nutrient cycling in kelp forests: identifying how consumer hotspots drive primary production in the Santa Barbara Channel

This project was designed to determine if consumers in kelp forests fuel production and if these processes are altered by disturbances periodically occurring in the Santa Barbara Channel (SBC). Kelp forests are highly dynamic, with both top-down and bottom-up factors forcing patterns of kelp survival and dispersal. The kelp forests within the SBC are regulated mostly by wave disturbance, yet kelp persists along many rocky reefs in the SBC with high year-round growth rates. These high growth rates require nitrate from upwelling, yet nitrate concentrations during summer months are inadequate to support the demands of production. Ammonium and urea excreted by consumers may act as a secondary source of nitrogen, yet empirical studies quantifying these nutrients in kelp forests are very limited. We believe areas with consistently high consumer biomass (e.g. reef inhabitants) likely contribute the most consumer-derived nutrients to kelp forests. Reef inhabitants, particularly invertebrates, make up the majority of animal biomass and their excreted nutrients could be an unexplored source fueling growth production in juvenile kelp and thereby enhancing kelp forest communities.