Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, announced Monday that UCSB researchers were awarded a National Science Foundation grant totaling $997,312 to study the link between kelp forests and beach ecosystems.

The project, conducted by a team under Jenifer Dugan, associate research biologist at the Marine Science Institute at UCSB, seeks to understand how near-shore kelp forests influence our sandy beaches. Kelp that washes onto our beaches provides a very important, though understudied, resource to support food webs in sandy ecosystems. A better understanding of the relationship between kelp forests and our sandy beaches will help to manage and preserve coastal ecosystems that are important to local residents and the economies that rely upon them.

“Understanding how ecosystems work allows us to better manage and protect our local resources,” Capps said. “This important grant will go a long way toward helping us understand the interaction between kelp forests and beaches, and I am proud that UCSB continues to lead the way with coastal science research.”

“The recently funded study will provide needed new insights into the dynamics of connectivity between a donor ecosystem, kelp forests, and a recipient ecosystem, sandy beaches, using the Santa Barbara Channel as the study region,” Dugan said. “By investigating links between kelp forests and sandy beaches, this project will expand and transform our understanding of cross-ecosystem fluxes in the coastal ocean and enhance our ability to manage and conserve coastal resources as they respond to the Earth’s ever-changing climate system.”

The project will begin with two years of intensive work at a well-studied kelp forest in the Santa Barbara Channel — Mohawk Reef — and along 10 kilometers of adjacent coastline, where the research team will measure intertidal community structure over time in response to variability in kelp inputs.

— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.