Guest blog post by Research Assistant Jessie Batchelder
This year is the second year that Hurricane Island has been part of the Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network (KEEN). KEEN is a global network of scientists who are assessing the impacts of global change on kelp forests. Kelp forests are an important ecosystem because they provide a complex habitat that supports a high diversity of marine organisms. Through KEEN, scientists across the world are using a standardized SCUBA sampling protocol to observe kelp forests over time and understand how resistant they are with rapidly changing oceanic conditions.
As a member of KEEN, we conduct five different protocols along four transects at each site we survey. Each protocol focuses on a different part of the ecosystem to determine abundance and percent cover of common invertebrates, algae and fish, as well as the size distribution and biomass of kelp. Last year, we surveyed one site on the north end of Hurricane Island. This year, our involvement in KEEN grew, as we added a second site on Schoodic Peninsula. Schoodic Peninsula is located further down east in Maine, and we conducted our surveys in the part of the peninsula that is Acadia National Park. In addition to the two sites we managed, we helped Northeastern University complete surveys at their site on Pemaquid Point.
One exciting part about surveying multiple sites for KEEN is being able to see the changes in species distribution and ecosystem characteristics over a small distance. At Schoodic, we saw much more coralline algae compared to what is present both at Hurricane and Pemaquid. Another species of interest was Dasysiphonia japonica, an invasive filamentous red algae that originates from Japan. Dasysiphonia japonica has recently been seen in large quantities along much of the Maine coast and has been taking over areas previously dominated by kelp ecosystems. During our surveys at both Pemaquid Point and on Hurricane Island, Dasysiphonia japonica was one of the most commonly spotted species, but at Schoodic, we did not see any Dasysiphonia japonica, a sign possibly indicating that the algae has not yet invaded further down east the Maine coast.
Personally, my favorite site to dive was at Schoodic Peninsula because I had never been to Schoodic before and it has long been on my list of places to visit in Maine. Although where we were diving in Schoodic is also part of Acadia National Park, it could not have felt more different than the part of Acadia located on Mount Desert Island. Schoodic is more remote with much less visitor traffic. The diving was also unique, dominated by a substrate of pink granite boulders and ledges covered in coralline algae
Although the protocols are the same at each site, each site felt new and exciting because we worked with different divers and saw a variety of unique species. Between all three sites, the Hurricane Island dive team completed 12 transects for KEEN monitoring in 10 different dives along the coast of Maine!