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ou sit in heavy scuba gear perched on

the edge of a 6-meter-long boat. T e boat is moored 5 kilometers off the coast of California. All around you, what look like small, green water balloons fl oat on the ocean’s surface. T ese aren’t water balloons, though. T ey’re the gas-fi lled tops of a type of seaweed called kelp. T ey help the kelp fl oat. You’re a marine biologist visiting the

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Your assignment is to record the plants and animals you see near the kelp. You’ll have about 45 minutes to complete your mission before you run out of oxygen. You wonder what you will see today. Each time you dive, you experience something new and unexpected. With you are three other marine scientists.

T ey’re just fi nishing putting on their gear. One by one, the divers fall backward over the side of the boat into the watery world below.

An Underwater Forest When you hit the water, it immediately cools you down and supports the weight of your gear. You swim just below the surface and look around. You are at the edge of a bull kelp forest. T e gas-fi lled sacs you saw on the surface have many narrow, leafy blades attached to them. T e blades fan out along the water, creating a brownish canopy. Like many plants, kelp is a producer. T at

means they create their own food to survive. T ey use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into food and energy. T is process is called photosynthesis. T e kelp forest is part of an underwater

ecosystem. T ere are producers, like kelp. T ere are also consumers—creatures that eat other organisms—like fi sh and sea otters. And there are organisms called decomposers that break down dead plant and animal matter.


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