Adapting to coastal tropicalisation: ecosystem function implications
is excited to be working together with the NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage on this important project, which
will enable the research findings to be incorporated into government
management approaches to climate change”, Professor Peter Steinberg, CEO & Director, SIMS.
Kelp forests are a dominant feature of the NSW coast that
provide the foundation for biodiverse ecological communities and support
valuable wild fisheries. Ocean warming is causing the decline of kelp forests
in northern NSW both directly and via increases in herbivory by range-expanding
tropical fishes. As a consequence, kelp forests are being replaced by
low-biomass algal turf communities. These changes are profoundly impacting the
associated fish community, which is becoming ‘tropicalised’.
SIMS Associate Professor Adriana Verges from UNSW speaks to the project below:
“Our new project seeks to move beyond documenting changes in the distribution of species and towards understanding how climate change affects some of the key benefits that humans derive from our coastlines. For example, in this new project we will be quantifying how reef productivity or fish biomass changes as a result of warming, which can have clear impacts on recreational fishing activities”.
“This kind of information is critically important to develop appropriate adaptation strategies for climate change, and to develop new governance mechanisms for biodiversity conservation and management. While traditional conservation aims to conserve and retain historical conditions, new management approaches will need to acknowledge the inevitability of species moving beyond their traditional ranges as our waters continue to warm, and novel ecosystems with completely new properties emerging.”