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Nearshore Habitats - Hakai Institute

Nearshore Habitats

Nearshore habitats, like kelp forests and rocky shores, abound with diverse life. (Photo: Grant Callegari)

The nearshore environment hosts many marine habitats and supports a great diversity of life. Yet we still know little about how coastal inhabitants persevere in the face of stress and disturbance. And what are the shared benefits that these habitats provide? Our ecological observatories give us unparalleled access across complex coastlines to investigate these critical habitats.     

Key Findings

  • Biological communities are being barcoded—revealing amazing diversity from microbes to top predators  
  • Removal and recovery of key predator species has wide-ranging effects on local and regional ecosystems along the northeast Pacific coast
  • Diverse habitats in close proximity improve nursery function for fish and contribute to carbon storage in nearshore sediments
  • Nearshore environments show resilience to disturbance with increased species and habitat diversity

Our Focus

Our Nearshore science team is peeling back the algae to discover what inhabits the sandy and rocky shores and learn from their lives in seagrass meadows and kelp forests. We’re interested in how these habitats are responding to both local and widespread perturbations in the environment, and the ecosystem interconnections that help the coastal margin thrive.


Together with our local, national, and international partners, our work is helping to explain factors that contribute to traditional harvests, regional biodiversity hotspots, and continental-scale shifts in trophic dynamics. Elucidating factors that contribute to our collective knowledge of the nearshore environment will help conserve the species that call these dynamic habitats home and the ecosystem services they provide.

A dendronotid nudibranch attacks a tube anemone. (Photo: Grant Callegari)


Jul – Dec 2018

Select Papers

Hessing-Lewis, M., Rechsteiner, E., Hughes, B.B., Tinker, M.T., Monteith, Z., Olson, A., Henderson, M.M., Watson, J.C., (2017). Ecosystem features determine seagrass community response to sea otter foraging. Mar Pollut Bull. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.09.047

Lemay, M.,  Martone, P.T,  Keeling, P., Burt, J.,  Krumhansl, K. Sanders-Smith, R., Parfrey, L. (2017). Sympatric kelp species share a large portion of their surface bacterial communities.  Environ Microbiol, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1462-2920.13993

Olson, A. , Hessing-Lewis, M. (2019). Nearshore seascape connectivity enhances seagrass meadow nursery function.  Ecol Appl, https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1897

Prentice, C., Hessing-Lewis, M. Sanders-Smith, R, Salomon A.K. (2019). Reduced water motion enhances organic carbon stocks in temperate eelgrass meadows.  Limnol Oceanogr, https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.11191

Rechsteiner, E., Watson, J., Tinker, T., Nichol, L., Morgan Henderson, M., McMillan, C., DeRoos, M., Fournier, M., Salomon, A., Honka, L., Darimont, C. (2019). Sex and occupation time influence niche space of a recovering keystone predator, Ecol Evol https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4953

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