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Climate change could destroy kelp's most productive ecosystems



Aquatic kelp forests are considered one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. These huge columns of seaweed, commonly found along Pacific North America, provide food and shelter for thousands of marine animals.
Co-author of the study Bob Miller is a biologist from the Marine Science Institute (MSI) at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
"The complex physical structure of the giant tide, which spans the entire water column, and its very high productivity are unique," said Miller. "No other species in the kelp forest can replace the great ability of the giant tide to physically alter the environment and produce habitat and food for a variety of other species."
For this reason, Riesentang are called "basic species". This is an organism that plays an important role in the structure of a community.
Huge kelp are usually able to withstand strong ocean currents, and can even replenish themselves after storms at an impressive rate, which is about three percent equivalent to their weight per day. According to MSI research biologist Dan Reed, the violent disruptions expected by climate change could destroy kelp forests around the world.
"One of the expectations of climate change is that many types of disturbances ̵

1; such as fire, hurricanes and floods – will occur more frequently or become more severe in intensity," said Reed. "Ecologists have long recognized the important role of disturbances in the structuring of natural communities, but they still need to clarify how natural communities respond to an increase in the frequency of disturbances to an increase in the severity of disorders."
Max Castorani is Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and senior researcher of the study.
"We found that the frequency of disturbances was the most important factor in kelp biodiversity, while the severity of the disturbance played a subordinate role in a given year," said Professor Castorani
Over the course of nine years, and Every three months, researchers measured more than 200 species of fish, plants and invertebrates in large experimental seaweed forests off the coast of Santa Barbara.
Through simulation of annual disruptions where Kelpforste were experimentally reduced each year, the team discovered that the number of smaller plants and in vertebrates on the seabed such as algae, coral and sponges doubled in number. At the same time, mussels, starfish, lobsters and crabs have been reduced by 30 to 61 percent.
"Our results surprised us because we expected that a single severe winter storm would lead to major changes in the biodiversity of the kelp forest," said Castorani. "Instead, the number of disruptions over time has had the biggest impact, as frequent disruptions suppress the recovery of giant clam with large impacts on surrounding marine life."
An ecosystem supported by an unhealthy kelp forest has less protection and becomes less
David Garrison is director of the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, which funded the study.
"There is a significant finding that the strength and frequency of disturbances affect kelp bed communities in different ways," said Garrison. "We need this kind of research to predict what future kelp bed communities will look like and what ecosystem services they will provide."
The study is published in the journal Ecology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Associate
Paid by Earth.com

Original article can be found here


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