Kelp forests losing unique traits due to climate change, says study

Source: The post is based on the article “Kelp forests losing unique traits due to climate change, says study” published in Down To Earth on 30th January 2023.

What is the News?

A recent study has revealed that Kelp forests are declining because of climate change.

What are Kelp Forests?

Kelp forests are large brown algae seaweeds. They grow in “underwater forests” in shallow oceans and nutrient-rich waters. 

Generally speaking, kelps live farther from the tropics than coral reefs. However, a few species have been known to occur exclusively in tropical deep waters.

They are considered as keystone species. Kelp forests provide stabilizing shelter for sea otters, and nutrient-rich food for their prey, such as fish and sea urchins.

They help reduce coastal erosion and act as a breakwater during large storms.

They are an important source of potash and iodine. Many kelps produce algin, a complex carbohydrate useful in industries such as tire manufacturing, and the ice cream industry.

What are the key findings of the study on Kelp Forests?

Ecklonia radiata, a dominant kelp species in the Southern Hemisphere, is vulnerable to climate change, especially in regions near the equator.

Rising temperatures are causing declines in the species along the eastern Australian coastline and it is expected to decline further in the future globally.

In situ protection may not be possible, but its unique genetic diversity can be preserved through ex-situ preservation in culture banks for use in future restoration, hybridization, or adaptation strategies.

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