Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 1319–1348 | Cite as

Status, trends and drivers of kelp forests in Europe: an expert assessment

  • R. M. AraújoEmail author
  • J. Assis
  • R. Aguillar
  • L. Airoldi
  • I. Bárbara
  • I. Bartsch
  • T. Bekkby
  • H. Christie
  • D. Davoult
  • S. Derrien-Courtel
  • C. Fernandez
  • S. Fredriksen
  • F. Gevaert
  • H. Gundersen
  • A. Le Gal
  • L. Lévêque
  • N. Mieszkowska
  • K. M. Norderhaug
  • P. Oliveira
  • A. Puente
  • J. M. Rico
  • E. Rinde
  • H. Schubert
  • E. M. Strain
  • M. Valero
  • F. Viard
  • I. Sousa-Pinto
Original Paper


A comprehensive expert consultation was conducted in order to assess the status, trends and the most important drivers of change in the abundance and geographical distribution of kelp forests in European waters. This consultation included an on-line questionnaire, results from a workshop and data provided by a selected group of experts working on kelp forest mapping and eco-evolutionary research. Differences in status and trends according to geographical areas, species identity and small-scale variations within the same habitat where shown by assembling and mapping kelp distribution and trend data. Significant data gaps for some geographical regions, like the Mediterranean and the southern Iberian Peninsula, were also identified. The data used for this study confirmed a general trend with decreasing abundance of some native kelp species at their southern distributional range limits and increasing abundance in other parts of their distribution (Saccharina latissima and Saccorhiza polyschides). The expansion of the introduced species Undaria pinnatifida was also registered. Drivers of observed changes in kelp forests distribution and abundance were assessed using experts’ opinions. Multiple possible drivers were identified, including global warming, sea urchin grazing, harvesting, pollution and fishing pressure, and their impact varied between geographical areas. Overall, the results highlight major threats for these ecosystems but also opportunities for conservation. Major requirements to ensure adequate protection of coastal kelp ecosystems along European coastlines are discussed, based on the local to regional gaps detected in the study.


Kelp forests Expert consultation Status and temporal trends Long-term changes Europe 



We would like to thank to the following persons or entities: (1) Lise Tveiten (NIVA) and Frithjof Moy (Institute of Marine Research, IMR), who for many years have sampled data on kelp forest ecology and distribution along the Norwegian coast; (2) The financial partners of the two monitoring programs “the Brittany REBENT” and the “European Water Framework Directive” for making it possible to obtain valuable data: the Brittany Region, the European Regional Development Fund, the Loire-Brittany Water Agency, the ONEMA, Ifremer, the MNHN and the Estuaires Loire Vilaine association; (3) Elodie Catherine, François-Xavier Decaris, René Derrien, Marie Mercier-Pécard, Nicolas Mercier and Thomas Abiven Annie Castric-Fey, Annie Girard-Descatoire, Marie-Thérèse L’Hardy-Halos (MNHN Station de Biologie Marine de Concarneau) who have, for many years, also contributed to French data on kelp forest ecology and distribution; (4) The marine operation department (Service Mer et Observation) of the Station Biologique de Roscoff and the natural marine park Parc Naturel Marin d’Iroise; (5) The MarClim project at the Marine Biological Association of the UK that has maintained long-term studies of kelps in the UK thanks to funding from Natural England and Natural Resources Wales; (6) Rolf Karez and the State Agency for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas, Lower Saxony, Germany who have a regular kelp monitoring program in the German North Sea with Philipp Schubert, being the main responsible diving expert; (7) Christian Wiencke (Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany) who established the recent quantitative diving study at Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen, where the sampling was performed with major help from Max Schwanitz and Martin Paar; (8) Annalisa Falace who reviewed the data for the Adriatic Sea; (9) The Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (projects of Ester Serrao: EXCL/AAG-GLO/0661/2012 and PTDC/MAR-EST/6053/2014) and postdoctoral fellowship to JA (SFRH/BPD/111003/2015) and RA (SFRH/BPD/75843/2011); (10) The project TETRIS (PRIN 2010-2011, MIUR) for support to LA and EMS. This work was funded by the European Commission under FP7 as the coordination action KNEU—‘‘Developing a Knowledge Network for EUropean expertise on biodiversity and ecosystem services to inform policy making economic sectors’’ (Grant No. 265299).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. M. Araújo
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Assis
    • 2
  • R. Aguillar
    • 3
  • L. Airoldi
    • 4
  • I. Bárbara
    • 5
  • I. Bartsch
    • 6
  • T. Bekkby
    • 7
  • H. Christie
    • 7
  • D. Davoult
    • 8
    • 9
  • S. Derrien-Courtel
    • 10
  • C. Fernandez
    • 11
  • S. Fredriksen
    • 12
  • F. Gevaert
    • 13
    • 14
  • H. Gundersen
    • 7
  • A. Le Gal
    • 10
  • L. Lévêque
    • 9
    • 15
  • N. Mieszkowska
    • 16
  • K. M. Norderhaug
    • 7
    • 12
  • P. Oliveira
    • 1
  • A. Puente
    • 17
  • J. M. Rico
    • 11
  • E. Rinde
    • 7
  • H. Schubert
    • 18
  • E. M. Strain
    • 19
  • M. Valero
    • 9
    • 20
  • F. Viard
    • 8
    • 9
  • I. Sousa-Pinto
    • 1
    • 21
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, (CIIMAR/CIMAR)University of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Centre of Marine SciencesUniversity of Algarve (CIMAR-Algarve)FaroPortugal
  3. 3.OceanaMadridSpain
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche ed Ambientali, (BIGEA) & Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze Ambientali (CIRSA)University of Bologna, UO CoNISMaRavennaItaly
  5. 5.Grupo BioCost, Departamento de Bioloxía Animal, Bioloxía Vexetal e Ecoloxía, Facultade de CienciasUniversidade da CoruñaA CoruñaSpain
  6. 6.Alfred-Wegener InstituteHelmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany
  7. 7.Norwegian Institute for Water ResearchOsloNorway
  8. 8.CNRSUMR 7144 AD2 M, StationRoscoffFrance
  9. 9.UPMC Univ. Paris 6, Station BiologiqueSorbonne UniversitésRoscoffFrance
  10. 10.Station MarineMuséum National d’Histoire NaturelleConcarneauFrance
  11. 11.Dpto. B.O.S. (Ecología)University of OviedoOviedoSpain
  12. 12.Department of BiosciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  13. 13.UMR 8187 LOGUniv Lille Nord de FranceWimereuxFrance
  14. 14.UMR 8187 LOGCNRSWimereuxFrance
  15. 15.FR2424CNRSRoscoffFrance
  16. 16.The Marine Biological Association of the UKPlymouthUK
  17. 17.Environmental Hydraulics Institute (IH Cantabria), Universidad de CantabriaSantanderSpain
  18. 18.University Rostock, BiosciencesRostockGermany
  19. 19.Sydney Institute of Marine ScienceMosmanAustralia
  20. 20.UMI 3614 EBEA, UC, UACHCNRSRoscoffFrance
  21. 21.Department of Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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