//
you're reading...

Climate Change

A bad kelp review: trouble in times of warming

Wernberg T, Bennett S, Babcock RC, de Bettignies T, Cure K, Depczynski M, Dufois F, Fromont J, Fulton CJ, Hovey RK, Harvey ES, Holmes TH, Kendrick GS, Radford B, Santana-Garcon J, Saunders BJ, Smale DA, Thomsen MS, Tuckett CA, Tuya F, Vanderklift MS, and Wilson S. Climate-driven regime shift of a temperate marine ecosystem. Science 353 (6295), 169-172. 7 July 2016. doi: 10.1126/science.aad8745.

(Panels courtesy Wernberg et al., Science)

(Panels courtesy Wernberg et al., Science 2016)

Foundational species form the basis for communities, providing resources and structures that are essential to the very existence of an ecological community. One such species is kelp, fast growing macroalgae that take root in the shallow ocean to form vast underwater forests. These kelp forests are home to an enormous diversity of sessile (immobile) and motile invertebrates that cling to the algae’s stipes (stalks) and blades, as well as fish and mammals that seek food and refuge within the algal sanctuaries. The delicate balance between kelp grazers and their predators helps sustain kelp forest ecosystems.  Beyond their ecological importance, kelp forests provide valuable “ecosystem services” for millions of people, from supplying nutrition to sustaining livelihoods.

Ecosystems are anything but fragile, as attested by their resilience to seasonal changes. Yet, when faced with unusual stressors like record temperatures due to global climate change, ecologists wonder how ecosystems such as kelp forests will fare. Kelp forests are only as resilient as the kelp that forms their structures. If kelp were to disappear so would the associated flora and fauna. So, how resilient are the kelp themselves to stresses like increasing ocean temperature due to climate change? When is hot too hot, and when do communities cease to exist as we have known them?

A recent study published in Science by a team of Australian and Kiwi researchers suggests that kelp forests are in dire straits as a result of record warming in the Indian Ocean. The study is a culmination of a fifteen-year survey of kelp forest communities off the western coast of Australia. In 2011—one decade into the survey—a dramatic collapse in kelp forests was witnessed coinciding with record temperatures. This collapse lead to the replacement of native kelp communities with flora and fauna from warmer tropical and subtropical latitudes. More disturbingly, these kelp forests showed no sign of recovery in the subsequent years, suggesting that the change in ecosystem was essentially irreversible. The authors cited an increased grazing rate by invading tropical and subtropical fish species, which could prevent a young kelp forest from taking root. Moreover, they point out that projected increases in the frequency of extreme warming events will further exacerbate recovery of kelp forests.

Sadly, the tale of the kelp forests of western Australia seems to fulfill the greatest fears of ecologists in the light of climate change. While ecosystems are resilient, there appears to be a tipping point of no return that threatens to change the face of our planet. Record temperatures due to human-driven climate change have lead to the blurring of lines between tropical and temperate ecosystems. The short-term implications for these kelp communities are clear, but the long-term effects of ecosystem flipping remain uncertain, as does the potential for recovery. Scientists should continue to monitor these ecosystems for years to come, while society should continue to work to reverse the detrimental effects of climate change.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 10 hours ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 1 week ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 2 weeks ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 3 weeks ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Have you seen a remote working setup like this? This is a photo from one of our Oceanbites team members Anne Hartwell. “A view from inside the control can of an underwater robot we used to explore the deep parts
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Today is the day of  #shutdownacademia  and  #shutdownstem  and many of us at the Oceanbites team are taking the day to plan solid actions for how we can make our organization and the institutions we work at a better place
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com