Quantcast
Climate
A kelp forest. NOAA

Climate Change Threatens Kelp Forests With Invasions of Weeds

The devastating consequences climate change is already having on coral reefs is well known, but now scientists have discovered that yet another unique marine ecosystem is threatened by rising carbon dioxide levels.

A paper published in Ecology this month based on research led by the University of Adelaide found that ocean carbon dioxide levels projected for the end of this century would cause weeds to grow and displace ecologically important kelp forests.


"Unfortunately, the CO2 that humans are pumping into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels gets absorbed by the ocean and favours weedy turfs, which replace kelp forests that support higher coastal productivity and biodiversity," project leader professor Sean Connell said in a University of Adelaide press release.

In order to compare current ocean carbon dioxide levels with those projected for the end of the century, researchers looked at volcanic seeps of carbon dioxide in the ocean.

They found that more carbon dioxide caused the weeds' natural predator, the sea urchins, to eat fewer of the plants, enabling the weeds to take over coastal ecosystems.

A weedier ocean is yet another consequence of ocean acidification, the process by which the carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans forms carbonic acid and lowers the water's PH level.

"Under the level of acidification we will find in oceans in a few decades, marine life is likely to be dominated by fast-growing and opportunistic species at the expense of longer-lived species with specialist lifestyles, unless we can set some change in place," University of Adelaide Professor Ivan Nagelkerken said in the press release.

Acidification also poses a problem for hard-shelled animals like mollusks or coral, since it raises the level of hydrogen relative to carbonate ions in the water. Marine life uses carbonate ions to build shells and skeletons out of calcium carbonate, the BBC explained. This could lead to a 60 percent reduction in warm water coral reef calcification, which could weaken reef structure and make reefs, already vulnerable to coral bleaching due to warmer ocean temperatures, also more vulnerable to erosion.

Now, kelp forests have been added to acidification's hit list.

While they get less media attention than coral reefs, kelp forests provide important habitats for many species. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), kelp forests are home to more biodiversity than almost any other ocean ecosystem. Like land forests, they provide shelter for many animals, such as sea lions, sea otters, whales, seals and various marine birds.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Politics
Jess Lundgren / CC BY 2.0

The Trump Administration’s ‘Dishonest’ Attack on Fuel-Economy Standards

By John R. Platt

The Trump administration's plan to freeze fuel-economy standards is "the most spectacular regulatory flip-flop in history," said a retired EPA engineer who helped to develop new the standards under the Obama administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Lizzie Carr traveling down the Hudson River on her stand-up paddleboard. Max Guliani / The Hudson Project

Her Stand-Up Paddleboard Is a Platform for Campaigning Against Plastic Pollution

By Patrick Rogers

Lizzie Carr was navigating a stretch of the Hudson River north of Yonkers, New York, recently when she spotted it—a hunk of plastic so large and out of place that she was momentarily at a loss to describe it.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales. Michael Van Woert, NOAA

Scientists Study Ice Shelf by Listening to Its Changing Sounds

By Marlene Cimons

Researchers monitoring vibrations from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf were flabbergasted not long ago to hear something unexpected—the ice was "singing" to them. "We were stunned by a rich variety of time-varying tones that make up this newly described sort of signal," said Rick Aster, professor of geosciences at Colorado State University, one of the scientists involved in the study.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
DSLRVideo.com / Flicker / CC BY-SA 2.0

'Go Out and Vote' Patagonia Endorses Candidates For First Time in Its History

Outdoor brand Patagonia is endorsing candidates for the first time in its history in an effort to protect the country's at-risk public lands and waters.

The civic-minded retailer is backing two Democrats in two crucial Senate races: the re-election of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana; and Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Desert Bighorn Sheep in Joshua Tree National Park. Kjaergaard / CC BY 3.0

Leaked Trump Administration Memo: Keep Public in Dark About How Endangered Species Decisions Are Made

In a Trump administration memorandum leaked to the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing its staff to withhold, or delay releasing, certain public records about how the Endangered Species Act is carried out. That includes records where the advice of career wildlife scientists may be overridden by political appointees in the Trump administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Disposable diapers add staggering amounts of waste to landfills. Pxhere

Dirty Diapers Could Be Recycled Into Fabrics, Furniture Under P&G Joint Venture

Disposal diapers can take an estimated 500 years to decompose. That means if Henry VIII wore disposables, they'd probably still be around today.

Although throwaway nappies are undoubtedly convenient, these mostly-synthetic items cause never-ending steams of waste that will take centuries to disappear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
The swelling barrier lake after a landslide forced evacuations along the Yarlung Zangbo River. YouTube screenshot / CCTV+

6,000 Evacuated After Tibet Landslide

Six thousand people have been evacuated after a landslide in Tibet Wednesday blocked a river that flows downstream into India, creating a lake that could cause major flooding in the subcontinent once the debris is cleared, The Associated Press reported.

Chinese emergency officials announced the evacuations Thursday. The landslide impacted a village in Menling County, but no one was killed or injured, Chinese officials said.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Pexels

Carbon Capture: What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Climate Change

By Daniel Ross

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report lays out a rather grim set of observations, predictions and warnings. Perhaps the biggest takeaway? That the world cannot warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C) over pre-industrial levels without significant impacts.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!