Eastern Tasmania’s oceans are warming two to three time faster than “normal”, a process that has already killed off an iconic underwater ecosystem
The great kelp forest off the southeastern coast of Tasmania was a unique underwater ecosystem that had lasted for ten thousand years. This one-time divers’ paradise teemed with fish, crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and algae. Those who have been there describe a mysterious and unique beauty in the colorful jungle beneath the giant kelp trees, which reach 100 ft in height.
But rogue ocean currents caused by global warming have decimated the once thriving system with nutrient-starved waters that have killed off virtually all of the giant submarine kelp trees. As the fundamental patterns of the Ocean Conveyor begin to shift in unprecedented ways, the East Australian Current that used to “feed” the kelp has shifted away, leaving the kelp without the nitrogen they feed on. To make matters worse, the warming waters stress the kelp
As the kelp die die, invasive sea urchins move in, dining on the young kelp plants and preventing them from ever reaching maturity. All that remains is a depleted and barren seascape. The transformation has been rapid taking place over fewer than than twenty years.
The rapid warming of the ocean is also pushing predatory species toward the poles in search of food. Tiger sharks, marlin and blue gill tuna have all been sighted repeated in the Tasmanian waters that have never before been part of their natural range.
Kelp Forests Threatened Globally
The ecological upheaval in the world ocean threatens kelp forest ecosystems around the planet. In Northern California in particular, kelp forests have been reduced to an all-time low since the 1990s. The kelp crash has hurt the recreational red abalone and commercial red urchin fishery, two economically important fisheries in northern California.
Warming waters and toxic algae blooms have contributed to the overall West Coast marine life catastrophe.
See our updated page on ocean ecosystem collapse here.