Thu, 15 Dec 2016
Kelp beats the heat
In early 2014, a large-scale marine heat wave in the Pacific Ocean produced temperature anomalies greater than anything seen since record-keeping began in the early 1900s. SBC LTER researchers use their long term records to evaluate the sentinel status of giant kelp forests along the Southern California coastline as an indicator of climate change. They expected giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), known to be sensitive to such increases as well as to the resulting low-nutrient conditions, to respond quite rapidly to a rise in water temperature. To their surprise, this was not the case; kelp's response to the oceanic heat wave was really no different than the variation in the long-term temporal record. Further, for most components of the kelp forest community, large responses to the unprecedented warm, nutrient-poor conditions were not obvious. "The fact that we did not see drastic responses in the rest of the community tells us that we don't know everything we think we know about this system and about its ecology," noted Dan Reed (Lead PI). "The results have caused us to pursue lines of research to understand how this happens. More importantly, the findings underscore the value of long-term data in terms of trying to tease apart these trends." Results are published in Nature Communications (UCSB press release).
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