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Can’t Live with Kelp and Can’t Live Without It

by | Dec 22, 2015 | News | 0 comments

The Blue Flag programme does not support the removal of kelp from beaches, a requirement is that the beach must be kept as natural as possible.

Whether we like the look or smell of it or not, kelp plays a vital role in the beach eco-system. Kelp forms a natural protective buffer for our coastal dunes and without it, they would be exposed to greater rates of erosion from storms and high seas.

The City receives many requests for the removal of kelp from beaches as it is seen as a nuisance.

‘The decision to remove kelp is a delicate one, as doing so can disrupt the coastal environment. While the City does remove kelp from certain, very popular beaches throughout the year, we try, as far as possible, to limit the beach areas where kelp is removed so as not to cause long term negative effects. Currently, the sections of beach from which kelp is removed are kept to a small fraction of the total coastline.’

‘Kelp is important in keeping sand on our beaches and preventing the erosion of our dunes. Unless we are content to sunbathe on rocky shores, we need to make our peace with kelp. Some people regard kelp as a nuisance but we cannot only be concerned with the look of our beaches, we need to think about the integrity of our coastal eco-systems and how to protect them from erosion. So next time you see kelp on the beach, it’s not because the City forgot to pick it up, it’s there for a reason,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Special Projects, Alderman Belinda Walker.

One of its most important roles is to keep sand intact on our beaches. Kelp helps to trap wind-blown sand and stops the sand from being eroded away. This means that we have a deeper profile of beach sand, which apart from providing material for sand castles, is also critical to protect our coastline from storm surges.

Kelp can even contribute to the start of new sand dunes.

During high seas beach cast kelp typically collects at the bottom of sand dunes. Whilst the build-up of kelp offers some protection to the dunes during the first high tide of the storm, the most significant protection is provided in the second high tide when kelp has collected and settled at the toe of the dune.

The presence of kelp on beaches also attracts a range of organisms which contribute to its decomposition. This process is vital to coastal nutrient cycles, which in turn is critical for the establishment of pioneer floral species Dune Spinach (Tetragonia decumbens) and the Seepampoen (Arctotheca populifolia). Without kelp, many of these plants would not exist on our coastline. The presence of a healthy functioning coastal environment plays a critical role in the protection of coastal infrastructure. Through the encouragement of such processes, the natural beauty of the coastline of Cape Town is retained.

‘I know that many Capetonians will be enjoying the city’s many Blue Flag beaches this summer. I ask that you help us to keep our Blue Flag status by taking all of your litter away when you leave. The only thing you may leave behind is the kelp and your footprints in the sand. It is important we all play out part in helping to maintain the integrity of our beaches by understanding why kelp needs to remain on our beaches,’ added Alderman Walker.

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