[Australia] Underwater kelp forests are at risk of being wiped out as seaweed-eating fish become more voracious, thanks to the warming of ocean waters induced by climate change, academic sources said on Tuesday.
An international team of researchers studied diverse data, including video footage recorded between 2002-2012 from near the Solitary Island Marine Park, in the Australian state of New South Wales some 530 kilometers (nearly 330 miles) north of Sydney.
The study found that water temperatures rose 0.6 degrees during this decade, according to a statement by the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The same period also witnessed the disappearance of kelp forests, besides a three-fold increase in the number of tropical and sub-tropical seaweed-eating fish.
The research concludes high temperatures have a direct impact on the kelp, and an indirect by increasing fish appetite which can then completely devour the ocean floor seaweed.
Climate change has also led to warm-water fish infiltrating even temperate areas and devouring the kelp forests, home to a large variety of marine species.
“Our results show that over-grazing by these fish can have a profound impact, leading to kelp deforestation and barren reefs,” the first author of the study, Dr Adriana Verges, from UNSW’s Sydney Institute of Marine Science said.
She remarked that such increases in the number of plant-eating fish because of warming poses a significant threat to kelp-dependent ecosystems both in Australia and around the globe.
Besides the UNSW, and other Australian universities and bodies, the study also included participation from researchers from the Center for Advanced Studies in Blanes Spain, and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore.
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