ARTICLES

TASMANIA'S GREAT KELP FORESTS

Unlike the terrestrial forests of Tasmania's south west, some of the forests that populate the south east coast are hard to see with the naked eye. The Great Kelp Forests are distributed just beyond the shoreline at a number of coastal locations – Bruny Island, Maria Island, the Tasman Peninsula, Binalong, Freycinet, Eaglehawk Neck and Fortescue Bay – and, despite their sheer magnificence, remain one of the lesser-known natural wonders of Tasmania, which, ironically, may be to the region's detriment. These rich bastions of marine biodiversity are in rapid decline due to climate change and direct human impact and only an estimated 5% of the original forests remain. To understand what's truly at stake though, it pays to take a journey beneath the surface. (Don't be dissuaded by a little icy wind – 7mm of neoprene, booties, gloves and a hood should provide sufficient protection against the Antarctic chill.) Visitors enter the forest via its swaying canopy. As light streams through the surface, the silhouette of the kelp against the sun provides passage to and from the sea floor.