Bull Kelp

by Sam Weinstock


Bull kelp is a fascinating giant
brown colored alga. It lives in the sea and if there is enough wave action
it can grow up to 3 feet in a day. Typically bull kelp grows up to about
115 feet in length, but they have the potential to grow up to about 300
feet. Like other algae, bull kelp converts energy from sunlight and takes
its nutrients from the surrounding water. The range where they live on the
Pacific coast is from Alaska to southern California. The best known species
is the giant kelp, and it is in the family known as Lessoniacea.

One thing that people have found
is that bull kelp is a great source of algin, a natural thickener used in
paint, beer, ice cream, etc. People harvest kelp for these products, but
of course they have to be careful and limit their harvesting so that they
don’t damage the kelp ecosystem. Another place where the kelp proved useful
was with the Indians. They discovered that the bulb of the kelp was hollow
and used it for carrying water, then they dried the stems over a fire and
used them for fishing line. Later the pioneers found that it tasted good
and started to pickle it; it is still used today for this purpose. The nutritional
value of kelp is high. It is high in protein, iron and calcium.

Sea otters use bull kelp to
anchor themselves and the blades of it have been found to provide a good
hard surface for mussels and Bryozoans to attach to. While snails, crabs,
shrimp, starfish, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, sea squirts
and many other animals use it as shelter, Also urchins, chitons, and limpets
all eat bull kelp.

The bulbous float at the end
is filled with gas containing carbon monoxide. Rafts of beached kelp help
reduce beach erosion. Kelp forests help soften the force of waves. Bull
kelp has three different parts: the bulb, the stipe, and the holdfast.

Apart from using kelp for factory-made
products, people have also found kelp as a source of entertainment. Some
of my fellow classmates have found playing kelp like a trumpet, quite a
blast. Also, my aunt takes bull kelp, dries it and uses it like shaker.