Climate change is rapidly affecting our oceans, altering the valuable services they provide and the industries they support. Kelp forests occur in cool, nutritious waters. The warming of the oceans globally, brought about by climate change, has corresponded with a global decline in kelp forest cover. However, in parts of Norway and South Africa, kelp forests are expanding.
In South Africa, the kelp forests are distributed over ~ 1000 km of coastline in shallow (up to 25 m) cool and nutritious waters of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) upwelling system. The kelp forest range expansion may be due to increased intensity and duration of upwelling, as these conditions bring cool, nutrient-rich waters.
In Norway, kelp forest cover is increasing in Svalbard due to retreating sea ice; kelp forests are re-establishing near the Russian border and along the mid-western coast following widescale shifts to urchin barrens in the 1980s.
The extent and impacts of the kelp forest expansions in Norway and South Africa are unclear. Due to the important ecosystem services provided by kelp forests, it is imperative to understand the effects their distribution change has on coastal communities. Increasing our understanding of how coastal communities can adapt to these changing ecosystems and identifying the opportunities provided by kelp forests is a key goal of BLUECONNECT.
Field research topic 1. Climate-driven changes to kelp forests