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Why are kelp forests rapidly disappearing and what does it have to do with climate change?


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New satellite imagery reveals that 95 per cent of kelp forests in Northern California have disappeared over the last seven years.

Scientists are concerned that only small, isolated patches of the kelp remain in the area’s ocean region.

Kelp is the name given to several species of large brown seaweed. It can form dense underwater forests, which are among the most productive and diverse ecosystems on the planet.

The decline is partly down to an increase in purple sea urchins on the seafloor – spiky creatures known to chomp their way through entire swathes of it. In 2019, a study reported that the sea urchin population had soared by 10,000 per cent in the last five years, devastating the US coastline.

The University of California Santa Cruz has now published new research in the journal Communications Biology. It includes satellite imagery documenting a dramatic shift in the state of California specifically, as a result of both urchins and climate change. For the last seven years, there has been an unusual period of ocean warming along the West Coast, meaning forests have been decimated.The study shows that kelp forests north of San Francisco were resistant to extreme warming events in the past, […]

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