Algal Underdogs

February 10, 2021

Carmel, California

While giant and bull kelp get all the glory for their overarching canopies, there are many shorter species of algae that also forest the reefscape. Here two of these other brown kelps (Laminaria setchellii and Dictyoneurum californicum) ride out the waves at the edge of the intertidal zone. The shallow violence of this washrock is too much for the forest's titans to handle, allowing these algal underdogs to seize all the sun for themselves.

But there's no relaxed sunbathing here; even on a calm day like this, the forces of churning brine are akin to those in a washing machine. The kelp was whipped, the invertebrates were rattled, and I was beached more than once - stuck high and dry on bare rock like a sack of potatoes until the next wave flushed me back, also as gracefully as said sack of potatoes. The resiliency of life in this surf zone is nothing short of extraordinary.

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