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Marine Heatwaves Damage Ocean Forests

A new study reveals that intensifying marine heatwaves are driving the loss of kelp forests at their warm range edges on both sides of the North Atlantic.

Posted in: Biology, Marine Biology, Research

sugar kelp

The study published in Scientific Reports by an international team of researchers including Montclair State University found that kelp experiences temperature stress and mortality during marine heatwaves.

One of the co-authors, Assistant Professor Colette Feehan from Montclair State University’s Department of Biology, said the results revealed that marine heatwaves may compromise the integrity of coastal ecosystems and their services to humans.

Kelp forests are incredibly important cold water ecosystems that provide nursery habitat for fish and dampen wave forces during strong storms.

Assistant Professor Feehan

The research team focused on an unprecedented 60-year dataset of warming events and kelp decline in southern New England and southern Norway. The historical records were combined with experiments showing that marine heatwaves in summer 2018 in both regions crossed lethal temperature limits that caused kelp to die.

Marine heatwaves are periods of extreme ocean temperature that are increasing in frequency globally with significant consequences for ocean ecosystems. At the moment, the east coast of the USA is experiencing another marine heatwave, with new record high temperatures.

The loss of these ecosystems under global warming is of great concern for the well-being of marine organisms, as well as humans living along these coasts.

Assistant Professor Feehan

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