May 14th, 2019

Underwater Arctic forests are expanding with rapid warming


Did you know that there are forests in the Arctic?

Lush underwater forests of large brown seaweeds (kelps) are  particularly striking in the Arctic, especially in contrast to the land  where ice scour (scraping of sea ice against the sea floor) and harsh  climates leave the ground barren with little vegetation.

Kelp forests have been observed throughout the Arctic by Inuit,  researchers and polar explorers. The Canadian Arctic alone represents 10  per cent of the world’s coastlines, but we know little of the hidden  kelp forests there.

Today, climate change is altering marine habitats such as kelp  forests on a global scale. In western Australia, eastern Canada,  southern Europe, northern California and eastern United States, kelps are disappearing due to warming temperatures. In other areas, kelps are being heavily over-grazed by sea urchins.  Coastal conditions in the Arctic are changing dramatically and the  region is warming faster than the rest of the world, but these changes  could actually be good for kelp.

Yet we know little about kelp forests in remote Arctic regions. Our latest research, published in Global Change Biology, uncovers the distribution of Arctic kelp forests and explores how these important ecosystems are changing with the climate.

Proliferation of kelps in the Arctic

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