James Bradley is an author and a critic. His books include the novels Wrack, The Resurrectionist and Clade.
Anybody who dives or snorkels along the southern Australian coast will be familiar with the kelp beds that line that part of the continent. Winkled into the topography of the sea floor, they are often things of beauty, fish darting in and out as the dark brown and honey gold fronds shift in the current. But even when the water is more turbulent, and the massing weight of the kelp sucks and pulls, they are majestic, the strength of their grip upon the rock impressive.
These kelp beds provide the ecological foundation of a string of temperate rocky reefs that follow the coast from Kalbarri in the west, across the Great Australian Bight to Victoria and Tasmania, and north again to Byron Bay. Dense with diverse and endemic life (in some places, as many as 80% of species are found nowhere else), these environments span 71,000 square kilometres and are economically significant,...
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