Kelp! Important ocean forests for sharks

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2022
  • Active
Project type
  • Research

Emiliano wants to assess the importance of kelp forest ecosystems to sharks, and is using San Quentin Bay in Baja, California, to understand their value. He aims to show how changes in kelp forest communities might impact sharks under future climate scenarios. Using horn sharks and banded guitarfish as model species, Emiliano is analysing where sharks sit in the kelp forest food pyramid. He is also estimating the diversity and abundance of shark species, and hopes to show how a changing community structure in kelp forests as a result of climate change could affect sharks and rays.

Kelp! Important ocean forests for sharks

Emiliano García-Rodríguez

Project leader
About the project leader

I grew up in Veracruz, a coastal city in tropical south-eastern Mexico. As a child I looked for any excuse to go to the beach to see what the local fishers had brought in from the sea. It was there that I discovered sharks and rays, and from that moment I knew I wanted to study these species. That became my motivation to pursue a degree in marine biology. After I graduated, I moved to north-western Mexico to study for my Master’s and worked with blue shark fisheries in the region. While studying for my doctorate, I developed a project...

PROJECT LOCATION : San Quintin Bay, Baja California, Mexico
Project details

Trophic importance of kelp forest for elasmobranchs in the Baja California peninsula

Key objective

To understand the trophic importance of kelp forest for elasmobranchs (focusing on Data Deficient species) and to evaluate how changes to this habitat due to climate change could affect these species.

Why is this important

Kelp forest is one of the habitats most threatened by climate change. It is also used by elasmobranchs, but we do not fully understand its trophic importance to these species. We therefore do not know how the structure of the community within the kelp forest may change as a result of intensified impacts of climate change and how elasmobranchs in particular may be affected.


Kelp forest is a very productive and biodiverse habitat that is important for fishing, coastal protection, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. It is, however, also very vulnerable to warming events, which cause declines in the abundance of the kelp and changes in the structure, function and resilience of the forest. Recent studies have shown that kelp forests along the Baja California peninsula experienced significant changes in their trophic levels and community structure as a result of warming events, which are likely to intensify in the future. Some elasmobranch species use kelp forest, but its importance has not been explored fully, so we do not yet understand the effect that warming events have on the elasmobranchs in kelp forest. This project aims to evaluate the trophic importance of kelp forest in the San Quintin Bay area, using the horn shark and banded guitarfish as model species. We will estimate the abundance and diversity of elasmobranch species in kelp forest and use the results of our study to get a better understanding of how changes in the community structure of the forest caused by warming events may affect these species.

Aims & objectives
  • To estimate the trophic contribution of kelp forest to the blood and muscle tissue of horn sharks and banded guitarfish.
  • To estimate the diversity and relative abundance of elasmobranchs in kelp forest in the San Quintin Bay area.
  • To collect fishing and biological information about Data Deficient elasmobranch species.