Survivors of Climate Driven Abalone Mass Mortality Exhibit Declines in Health and Reproduction Following Kelp Forest Collapse

Marine ecosystems are vulnerable to climate driven events such as marine heatwaves yet we have a poor understanding of whether they will collapse or recover. Kelp forests are known to be susceptible, and there has been a rise in sea urchin barrens around the world. When temperatures increase so do physiological demands while food resources decline, tightening metabolic constraints. In this case study, we examine red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) looking at sublethal impacts and their prospects for recovery within kelp forests that have shifted to sea urchin barrens.

Long Term Impacts of Marine Heatwave on Kelp Forests

A new study led by researchers at UC Santa Cruz, with coauthors from UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Davis, documents the collapse of kelp forest ecosystems off the coast of Northern California. Analyzing the contributing events, from warming oceans to the loss of sunflower sea stars, researchers used satellite imagery from over 30 years to assess historical changes and better understand the dynamics and resilience of kelp forests.

Read the study in Communications Biology

NSF Supported Climate Change Facility

In addition to existing ocean acidification facilities constructed by the BOAR group, BML was successful in obtaining NSF FSML support to establish a climate change facility that will allow researchers and students to simultaneously control multiple environmental variables (including CO2) with precision at levels typical of real-world climate change scenarios.