Asia Minute: Kelp Beds Devastated off Australia’s Coast
Researchers in Hawai‘i and around the world are closely monitoring the health of ocean coral. But there’s another form of marine life that’s also getting close attention—especially off the coast of Australia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.
Seaweed comes in various forms…including kelp—which is a brown algae that grows in relatively shallow oceans. And a recent study about kelp off the west coast of Australia comes to some disturbing conclusions.
Researchers publishing in the journal “Science” found about 90% of the kelp forests off the west coast of Australia were wiped out between 2011 and 2013.
The survey covered more than 12,000 miles along Australia’s Great Southern Reef….and is part of a broader study going back 15 years.
Scientists blame the loss on a warming ocean environment. Water temperatures shot up by two degree Celsius during a heat wave in 2011. That’s a little more than three and a half degrees Fahrenheit—enough to spark a lingering impact—even though baseline temperatures declined somewhat after that spike.
One of the lead researchers on the project told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that many species of marine life associated with kelp are now under threat. That includes abalone, rock lobster and several varieties of reef fish popular for commercial and recreational fishing. And that’s not the only potential loss--scientists say kelp can also play a role in easing acidification of ocean waters…because of its ability to absorb carbon.