Macrocystis, Zostera, Egregia and Phyllospadix jumble together to form this large "kelp paddy" drifting freely on the open ocean. Kelp paddies harbor many small invertebrates, the provide shelter for numerous fish and pinnipeds. Birds often rest on paddies on the high seas. And many species of seaweeds continue to produce spores and potentially colonize new habitats downstream from their original home attached to the sea floor. Kelp also played a major role in the migration and success of prehistoric humans.
A pelagic drifting giant kelp paddy (Macrocystis pyrifera) with bull kelp (Nereocystis lutkeana) and surf grass (Phylospadix torreyi). Entire giant kelp plants frequently become detached from the ocean floor due to the activities of herbivorous invertebrates and the force of passing waves. Although some of the plant material in this paddy of drifting algae on the open ocean is dead, much of the giant kelp is whole and alive. It continues to produce spores and fosters new kelp growth as it drifts freely in the currents. These huge assemblages of seaweed are havens for many animals that use it as shelter.
A Pacific Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) seeks refuge in a drifting paddy of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) in the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel. Predators such as white sharks and killer whales may be less likely to see the seal when it is surrounded by kelp.
A drifting kelp paddy composed of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and Surf Grass (Phyllospadix torreyi) on the open ocean. Kelp paddies are extremely important and interesting vectors of algal and animal dispersal, as well as providing just about the only shelter available to fish and mammals in the blue water realm.