Effects of Southern California Kelp Beds on Waves

Elwany, MHS, Oreilly WC, Guza RT, Flick RE.  1995.  Effects of Southern California Kelp Beds on Waves. Journal of Waterway Port Coastal and Ocean Engineering-Asce. 121:143-150.

Date Published:



energy, spectra


The effect of a Macrocystis kelp forest on shoreward propagating surface gravity waves was measured. Observations were made over a 67-day period at four locations around a 350-m-wide kelp bed off Carlsbad, California. Instruments were located directly offshore and onshore of the kelp bed at depths of 13 m and 8 m, respectively, and at control stations at the same depths, but displaced 750 m alongshore, away from the kelp bed. The bathymetry between the offshore and onshore sites was gently sloping and featureless. The measured spectra, significant wave height, mean wave direction at peak frequency, and total radiation stress differed only slightly between the offshore kelp and control stations and were similar at the onshore sites. The similarity of the wave field at the onshore kelp and control sites shows that this typical southern California kelp bed, with an average density of about 10 plants per 100 m(2), does not have a significant effect on waves. These measurements can be used to place upper bounds on drag coefficients in numerical models of the effect of kelp on waves.