The impact of global climate change on the world's ocean is complex and we're only just beginning to understand the many shifts that are occurring as waters warm. As is happening on land, species in the water are migrating, chasing the conditions in which they've evolved. This is no different with forests of trees as with forests of seaweed. Australia's seaweed is heading south, and that could push it into oblivion.
CBS news reports, "Warming ocean waters could force hundreds of Australian seaweed species to shift southward in search of cooler waters, and eventually, force them off Australia's continental shelf, and possibly into extinction, according to a study."
That study is from the University of Western Australia. It states that the seaweed communities in the south are resembling past communities in the north, showing temperate species moving southward. The results could be two-fold. First, the seaweed species trying to move southward could hit the edge of the continental shelf and simply not be able to migrate farther. The result would likely be extinction. And second, as these species that provide both food and shelter for many other species move, those species would also have to follow or risk extinction. They're also clinging on to the same potential fate along with the seaweed.
"The researchers believe while some species may be able to make some adjustments to cope with natural cooling and warming cycles, the predicted rate and strength of warming in the coming decades is likely to force many retreating species further south and beyond the limits of available habitat," states the University.
"The potential for global extinctions is concerning because one quarter of all macroalgal species in the world are found off Australia and these marine habitats support equally unique fish and invertebrate communities," Assistant Professor Wernberg said.
CBS news reports, "The projected warming — of between 1.8 degrees F and 5.2 degrees F (3 degrees C) by 2070 — plus the rates of seaweed shift they calculated could mean the potential loss of 100 to 350 species over the next 60 years as the seaweeds' suitable habitat too far south. These represent about a quarter of all southern Australian seaweed flora."
As with species moving higher up into mountains to chase cool temperatures, soon, there won't be any where else to go.
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