Neptune's BC Bull Kelp Restoration Project With The Help Of UBC

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Neptune has partnered with the University of British Columbia (UBC) on an important research project examining bull kelp restoration and resilience in Burrard Inlet.

Working with Dr. Patrick Martone at UBC, with support from Dynamic Ocean Consulting, Neptune is funding the Bull Kelp Restoration Program. The terminal’s water lots in the Inlet are a key part of the ecosystem and Neptune is committed to environmental stewardship. This project, which is focused on understanding how to protect and enhance bull kelp populations in Burrard Inlet, will help bolster climate resiliency within the local kelp population. Bull kelp is an iconic species that has been native to Burrard Inlet since time immemorial. It is recognized by its canopy-forming, three-dimensional shape—growing from the ocean floor to the surface—that provides important habitat for fish, such as juvenile salmon, and other marine species.

While bull kelp is naturally present within Neptune’s water lots, Indigenous knowledge and Western science tell us there has been a steady decline of bull kelp in Burrard Inlet over time. The BKR Program is using two techniques: bull kelp is transplanted within Neptune’s water lots and is also cultivated in the laboratory and reintroduced to the Inlet as baby plants on tiles. Development of methods for growing kelp in Dr. Martone’s laboratory have been ongoing for several years, and the BKR Program will help the team understand whether these methods can be successfully applied in the field.

"Neptune is giving us the opportunity to grow and advance research in this important field,” says Dr. Martone, who is a Professor in the Department of Botany at UBC. “We are at the forefront of this kind of kelp restoration work, and our progress to date bodes very well for our research goals. Bull kelp is a very charismatic species, and we know that many people all along the West Coast are watching and paying attention to this work.”

Preliminary results have been very promising. Out-planted baby bull kelp plants have been successfully introduced, with high survival of the young plants after six weeks in the Neptune water lots. Over the winter of 2023/2024, the team will continue to assess field success and transplant new plants. They will also look to identify high temperature and low salinity tolerant strains that have greater climate resiliency.

Neptune is also hoping to expand this work to include the Lynn Creek Estuary as part of its proposed Berth 2 and Lynn Creek Estuary Offset Project. In this case, Neptune is interested in understanding whether bull kelp can establish a sustainable population in the Estuary using the same field and laboratory methods. This work would also support Dr. Martone’s laboratory to gain valuable insights into the resilience of certain bull kelp plants in lower-salinity water.

We are fortunate to live and work in one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Investing in this sentinel species is of huge importance to Neptune as part of our ongoing commitment to environmental protection —caring for what exists today and also working to make it better for tomorrow.