The Past and Future Ecologies of Australasian Kelp Forests

Australian and New Zealand researchers have joined forces to document their view of kelp forests. In this review published by Cambridge University Press, the team was able to use biogeographic perspective to synthesise the processes that create variation in the spatial extent and persistence of kelp forests in Australia and New Zealand (NZ).

Due to evolution, the world’s greatest macroalgal (seaweed or macroalgae) diversity in seen in southern Australia. Researchers defined kelp as canopy-forming algae from both these orders and recognised the contribution of both to the ecology of permanent below the level of low tide (subtidal ecosystems). This review considers fundamental patterns and processes across temperate Australia and NZ and then considers their future ecology (i.e. response to climate change). These considerations provided sign posts for research into the future ecology of kelp forests.

Kelp forests are a constantly changing ecosystem which reflect natural or human-related disturbances. Human disturbances often have the ability to stabilise or destabilise the complex ecological system. Whilst recovery can is possible, it is often slow. Early warning signs of loss can be difficult to interpret, therefore predicting upcoming loss is tricky.

Researchers contributing from University of Adelaide included Prof Sean D. Connell and Prof Ivan Nagelkerken.

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