The California coast is home to a nearly continuous band of kelp forest ecosystems stretching nearly the entire length. Forests composed of the giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) are found from about half-way down the Baja California peninsula to just north of Monterey Bay. North of Monterey, the dominate species forming kelp forests becomes the bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). From about Point Conception northward, the bull kelp intermingles with giant kelp forming mixed forests.
Unlike giant kelp, bull kelp has no blades along the length of its stipe. Instead, all of the blades on bull kelp branch off the softball-sized bladder that floats the algae to the surface to maximize the amount of sunlight it can absorb.
When talking about algae, because of differences in internal structures compared to plants, the names of the common structures are different. Instead of a stem, algae have stipes. Instead of leaves, algae have blades. Instead of roots, algae have a holdfast.
This photo was taken on the beach at Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island off the California Coast. A bull kelp that was ripped from the bottom and cast-up on the beach has been partially buried, and dried out by the actions of the sun and wind. As it is broken down and decomposes, the elements of the alga will be utilized by a host of tiny organisms that live on and among the sand grains on the beach. Because of the constantly shifting sands, not much in the way of plant life occurs on sandy beaches (the stabilized dunes covered by vegetation further from the waves notwithstanding). So the deposition of large amounts of organic material in the form of drift kelp can be a very important food source for the sandy beach ecosystem.
Storms, wind and waves are important forces that connect ecosystems within in the marine environment. Similar forces also make connections between other ecosystems on the land. Examples of such connections are important reminders for us that we live in a world that is built upon, and persists because of the vast number of connections between living things and the environment. We ignore the importance of preserving the mechanisms of these connections at our own peril.
This photo was taken with a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 lens on a Canon 10D dSLR. The lens was zoomed to 17 mm and exposure set to 1/250 sec. at f/11 and ISO 100.