What does the future look like for kelp when facing multiple stressors?

As primary producers and ecosystem engineers, kelp (generally Order Laminariales) are ecologically important, and their decline could have far-reaching consequences. Kelp are valuable in forming habitats for fish and invertebrates and are crucial for adaptation to climate change by creating coastal defenses and in providing key functions, such as carbon sequestration and food provision. Kelp are threatened by multiple stressors, such as climate change, over-harvesting of predators, and pollution. In this opinion paper, we discuss how these stressors may interact to affect kelp, and how this varies under different contexts. We argue that more research that bridges kelp conservation and multiple stressor theory is needed and outline key questions that should be addressed as a priority. For instance, it is important to understand how previous exposure (either to earlier generations or life stages) determines responses to emerging stressors, and how responses in kelp scale up to alter food webs and ecosystem functioning. By increasing the temporal and biological complexity of kelp research in this way, we will improve our understanding allowing better predictions. This research is essential for the effective conservation and potential restoration of kelp in our rapidly changing world.

Wear B., O’Connor N. E., Schmid M. J. & Jackson M. C., 2023. What does the future look like for kelp when facing multiple stressors? Ecology and Evolution 13(6): e10203. doi: 10.1002/ece3.10203. Article.

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