A cry for kelp! Dr Dan Smale- Senior Researcher at the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Thanks to Dan Smale, from the Marine Biological Association, for coming to see us for his HSE Diving Medical and writing 'A cry for kelp' for us. Dan is a marine biologist whose research focusses on understanding how key habitats such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows are affected by environmental changes, including ocean warming and invasive species. His team conduct diving-based fieldwork around the UK and elsewhere to collect valuable information on the ecology of inshore habitats. We hope you enjoy the blog and that Dan's passion for marine ecosystems comes through!

The Marine Biological Association (MBA) is one of the world’s longest running societies dedicated to promoting research into our oceans and the life they support.


Since 1884, the MBA has provided a unified, clear, independent voice on behalf of the marine biological community and currently has a growing membership of over 1900 members from over 40 countries. The MBA provides a valuable pathway for evidence and advice to be passed from members and scientists to decision makers, as well as offering a range of engagement, education and training opportunities.

The MBA also runs a leading marine biological research laboratory where many eminent scientists – including twelve Nobel prize winners - have carried out their research.

Currently, the MBA hosts ten senior scientists, who conduct research on a wide range of marine organisms, from viruses, plankton and seaweeds through to invertebrates, finfish and sharks. The scientific questions and approaches are also broad, ranging from understanding processes at the genetic and molecular level through to ecosystem level responses and global patterns of marine biodiversity.

One of the MBA research groups, led by Dr Dan Smale, aims to better understand the ecology of coastal marine habitats, such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows, which support high levels of biodiversity and productivity and provide a wealth of ecosystem goods and services and benefits to humans. This work involves running experiments in controlled conditions in the laboratory, conducting fieldwork on rocky shores during periods of low tides and completing scientific diving operations to run experiments, conduct surveys and collect samples from coastal waters.

For the past five years, most of the diving research has been conducted in kelp forests in the UK, at a number of study sites ranging from Orkney off north Scotland to near Plymouth in the relatively warm waters of the Western English Channel.

While some kelp forest ecosystems have been extensively studied, such as those dominated by Giant Kelp (Macrocystis) in California or the common kelp (Ecklonia) in southern Australia, others such as those around the UK remain largely unexplored.

This is despite the fact that kelp forests are found along ~25% of the world’s coastlines and are known to play a key role in carbon cycling, coastal food webs and as habitat providers for myriad other species including fish, crustaceans, birds and mammals.

Research conducted by MBA scientists in collaboration with Newcastle University, the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences and Tritonia Scientific Ltd aims to document the biodiversity value of UK kelp forests, as well as their importance for coastal food webs and carbon cycles.

The overall objective is to better understand how ocean warming and other contemporary stressors may alter the ecological structure and functioning of these vital ecosystems.


Marine Biological Association