Hidden Deserts, Bondi Beach, Australia

by Jordi Boada, Hiden Deserts

Deserts are among the most impressive landscapes on earth. Their loneliness and immensity attracted explorers since ancient times, succumbing to their dryness. The vast Shara Desert, with its emblematic dunes, covering all the broadness of Northern Africa or the desert of Atacama with the clearest sky you could ever imagine, perfect for star watching, are only a couple of examples.

But do you imagine deserts like those underneath the surface of the ocean?

In Bondi, one of the most popular beaches in Australia, a huge desert expands below the crowded surf breaks. Climate change, pollution and overfishing have caused the disappearance of the kelp forests that originally covered the submerged rocky reefs of Sydney coastline. Hidden deserts, is how we call them because not many people are aware of their existence.

Deserts similar to Bondi’s are found all around the globe especially in the temperate seas. These deserts are a sign of an ocean in serious trouble. Their apparent beauty is equivalent to the magnitude of the disaster. Losing underwater forests has important implications for us all. The structure they generate, similar to terrestrial forests, gives life to a great diversity of organisms including the fish we eat. Losing kelp forests means also eroding the planet’s resilience to climate change.

Knowing exactly where these underwater deserts are, and how they look like, is the first step to take the missing forests back. For this reason, an international group of researchers have joined efforts to uncover and monitor the deserts hidden in the ocean. But we need everyone’s help. We need to reach every corner of the ocean. If you are a diver, open waters swimmer, or even if you are a drone pilot you can contribute to uncovering new barrens. This will help us propose appropriate conservations actions to restore the lost vegetation and prevent the collapse of underwater forests.

Bondi beach, Sydney, Australia above and below the surface.