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.