From fronds to forests: Individual-based and whole-forest models of kelp
University of Strathclyde Supervisors: Professor Mike Heath and Dr Douglas Speirs


Scottish kelp biomass is estimated to be around 20 million tonnes. Kelps are long lived species that can survive up to 10 years. They are physiologically complex, being able to store significant reserves of nitrogen and to excrete polysaccharides. Kelp forest provide a dense habitat available for other marine species. Their forest dynamics depend on environmental factors, such as turbidity, wave action and temperature. They are also influenced by density-dependant processes such as competition for holdfast space as settling spores or self-shading.

First Year Aims

  • Develop an individual based model to further understand the growth and interactions that make a kelp forest.
  • This model will be able to function for various kelp species by being re-parametrized.
  • The individual base model will allow us to understand the gaps present in current whole-forest models available and decide upon their effectiveness on predicting kelp forest responses to being harvested.
  • Identify the current models being used to study kelp species, with a focus on how the different types of models affect the information obtained and how do they vary across species.
  • Show the associated drivers of kelp growth and how they affect the time taken for recovery to occur.
  • Undertake an inventory of kelp biological and associated environmental data available.
Start Date: October 2019

This project is funded through “The Scottish Universities Partnership for Environmental Research” (SUPER) and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology (MASTS). It is hosted at the University of Strathclyde department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Glasgow, UK.