Ecological Interactions and Biodiversity of Kelp Forests Lesson Plan High School

Ecological Interactions and Biodiversity of Kelp Forests Lesson Plan High School


Kelp forests play a vital role in the health of our global oceans. These fragile biodiverse ecosystems provide the ideal ecosystem to look at ecological interactions among organisms, trophic structure, nutrient cycling, and overall ecosystem dynamics. Often students who live near the coast get to experience the rock intertidal zone, but rarely do students get a chance to explore and understand what lies beneath the vastness of the ocean. This lesson will allow students to explore the kelp forest using basic concepts in ecology without having ever left the classroom. 


Students will: 

● Engage in meaningful activities focus around kelp forest ecology and the role of kelp forests in maintaining the health of our local and global oceans 

● Work cooperatively in small groups to read, discuss, problem solve 

Concepts Included: 

● Biodiversity 

● Trophic Guilds 

● Producers 

● Consumers 

● Planktivores/Detritivores 

● Grazers 

● Predators (Primary and Secondary) 

● Food Web Dynamics ● Invasive Species 

● Habitat Loss/Management


In addition to the MyHero film you will need the following: 

Copy of Chapter 8 Diversity and Dynamics of California Subtidal Kelp Forests (Michael Graham, Ben Halpern, Mark Carr) 16 pages


The following questions will help you determine if your students gained appropriate understanding. For further assessment students could be tested on ecological terminology and asked to create a food chain/food web. 

Q. Were students able to have a good discussion about changes in the kelp forest ecosystem and how it would impact the environment and other species? 

Q. Did students get a basic understanding of kelp forest ecology and college level ecological terms? 


This lesson is meant to give students a basic introduction into kelp forest ecosystem and basic ecological terminology. However there are several ways to extend or expand the lesson. 

● If you live in an area where kelp is accessible it would be very beneficial to bring in a sample and allow students to examine it either macroscopically or microscopically. Looking at a kelp holdfast you will find multiple small critters and can further discuss biodiversity. 



Kelp forests provide an important role in the health of our global oceans. They are found pole to pole in nutrient rich waters with water temperatures typically 20°C or less. Their dependence on light for photosynthesis restricts them to shallow coastal zones no greater than 40m in depth, an area often referred to as the subtidal zone. These kelp forests rapidly grow, sometimes gaining up to 30cm per day, and provide a rich biodiverse ecosystem for some of the 800 species that call it home. Each species occupies its own specific niche, or role within the environment. The balance of these interactions is what keeps the kelp forest healthy and in balance with the surrounding ocean environment. With more and more human exploitation of our ocean resources, our kelp forests and the species that reside within them have become threatened. To maintain their existence humans have resorted to restoration efforts.


Lesson Plan Activities


1. Review or introduce the following terms:

● Biodiversity

● Trophic Guilds 

● Food Web Dynamics 

● Invasive Species



2. Q. What role does a kelp forest serve in local and global ocean health?

● Have students think pair share 

● Whole class share out 

● Read overview and background provided 

3. Watch MyHero film (9 min): The Kelp Lady 

4. Introduce Ch 8 Diversity and Dynamics of California Subtidal Kelp Forest


Practice and Application

5. Have students read the attached document, or choose selections of the document for students to read:             Ch 8 Diversity and Dynamics of California Sub-tidal Kelp Forest

Groups of 2-3 will work best for this activity. Have students summarize the paper in 5 major points or a cohesive paragraph.

6. Have students share out their summaries.

7. Whole class discussion on Human Impacts in a kelp forest: Exploitation/Habitat Loss, Invasive Species, Climate Change, Management/Intervention, Ecological consequences of kelp loss.

8. Have students consider which global areas may be facing the most impact with regards to the loss of their kelp forests. 

9. Have students brainstorm solutions for preserving or restoring kelp forests. Students should provide both long and short-term solutions

10. Provide any feedback based on observations



11. Review major concepts and essential question 

12. Assignment: Have students share out about local Eco Heros in their lives similar to Nancy Caruso in the film. Students can produce a video, art piece, or short story


Adapted from the SIOP Model by Echevarria,Vogt and Short, 2008

Created By: Lauren Fieberg, Sage Hill School (revised 2020)

Organizer created on 7/21/2020 2:19:33 PM by Laura Nietzer

Last edited 4/22/2024 12:23:55 PM by Laura Nietzer