Habitat degradation in kelp forests due to melting glaciers

Project Description

Melting of arctic and subarctic glaciers carries sediment-laden freshwater to coastal habitats. Glacial discharge can structure and degrade benthic communities through multiple mechanisms that may restrict settlement and alter succession. The goal of this study is to determine the influence of glacial discharge on recruitment and succession in kelp forest communities. Kachemak Bay is an ideal setting for this study as an estuary with points of glacial discharge along the southern shore and currents from the Gulf of Alaska at the mouth transporting this discharge around the bay. Recruitment of kelp and other benthic sessile organisms and community succession are being monitored on cleared and un-cleared control rocks. Sedimentation, temperature, salinity, light, and nutrients are environmental factors directly influenced by glacial discharge that are being monitored in this study at each site. Freshwater discharge at the head of the bay will be used as a direct measure of overall glacial discharge in the bay. Additionally, wave exposure, substrate rugosity, mobile invertebrate grazers and predators, and sea otter activity (otter pits) are being monitored to determine correlations between these drivers and algal and invertebrate initial and post-recruitment densities. Assessing the variability in succession across a gradient of glacial covariables will be a step towards determining whether recruitment or post-recruitment pressure (such as competitive interactions) are altered due to the physical changes caused by glacial melt.

Project Funding

Alaska Sea Grant
Amount: $32,000
Start Date: 2014-02-00
End Date: 2016-02-00


Poster presentations

Glacial Melt Influence poster image

AK Sea Grant Spring 2015 report image

AMSS 2015 final poster image


Publications and products

Traiger SB and B Konar. (2014). "Effects of Glacial Discharge on Recruitment and Succession in Subtidal Kelp Beds". Western Society of Naturalists Meeting. Tacoma, WA. November 13-16, 2014.

Traiger SB and B Konar. (2015). "Effects of Glacial Discharge on Recruitment and Succession in Subtidal Kelp Beds". Alaska Marine Science Symposium. Anchorage, Alaska. January 20, 2015.

Traiger SB and B Konar. (2015). "How does glacial melt influence early development of kelp communities in Kachemak Bay?".  Kachemak Bay Science Conference. Homer, Alaska. March 7, 2015.


Additional websites


Research Team

Brenda Konar

Brenda Konar

Principal Investigator

Associate Dean of Research and Administration; Director of Institute of Marine Science; Director of Coastal Marine Institute; Professor


  • phycology
  • research scuba diving
  • biodiversity
  • monitoring programs
  • nearshore ecology
  • ecosystem change
  • benthic ecology
  • kelp forest ecology

Full Profile
Sarah Traiger

Sarah Traiger

Research Staff

Marine Biology graduate student