‘Crayweed’ (Phyllospora comosa) forms dense underwater canopies on shallow reefs along Australia’s East coast from Port Macquarie to Tasmania, forming rich habitat that supports a plethora of marine ecosystems. After anthropogenic pollution contributed to massive declines in metropolitan Sydney crayweed populations in the 1980s, our own Operation Crayweed has been working hard to restore the vibrant seaweed forests in our back yard.
However, with ocean warming and marine heatwaves increasing, seaweed populations are increasingly threatened and crayweed is in hot water. While restoration has helped to recover lost populations, restored crayweed is now at risk of being wiped out by heat stress during marine heat waves. As we anticipate warmer and harsher future ocean conditions, the need for increasing the resilience of our crayweed is front of mind, and improving their capacity to resist stressors is key for maintaining crayweed forests.