Background/Question/Methods Kelp forests line a quarter of the world’s coastlines and provide diverse ecosystem services. Kelps are a harvested resource themselves, as well as crucial foundation species that form the basis of productive ecosystems. Globally, kelps are threatened by a variety of anthropogenic impacts, including overharvesting, overgrazing, invasive species, poor water quality, and the direct and indirect effects of climate change. While many ecological factors will influence kelp forest stability in the coming decades, direct human actions and the management of these actions will influence their stability as well. However, a literature search for management-relevant research on widely distributed coastal ecosystems like coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests generally returns 1–2 orders of magnitude more results than equivalent searches for kelp forests. To address these threats and preserve the services provided by these foundation species, we show that Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) approaches are well-suited for kelp forest management.
Results/Conclusions To define and illustrate key EBM-inspired approaches for kelp forest management and conservation, we combined key concepts from the EBM literature, the literature on the biology and ecology of kelp forests, and primary information we gathered on case studies of ongoing kelp forest management at regional levels in British Columbia (Canada), California (United States), and northern Chile. Using these three sources of information, we identify six key principles for kelp forest EBM: 1) monitoring at biologically relevant temporal and spatial scales, 2) assessing and addressing cumulative impacts, 3) managing across spatial and institutional scales, 4) co-management with users, 5) employing rapid adaptive management and/or the precautionary principle, and 6) managing food web connections. We explore and illustrate these principles using examples from multiple regions to provide concrete guidance on EBM-inspired strategies that are likely to improve kelp forest management outcomes.