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Disappearing kelp forest.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has made international headlines in recent years, often due to the destruction heaped upon it by climate change. However, while the Great Barrier Reef has been receiving all this attention, a lesser-known Australian reef has also been suffering the effects of warming waters, though much more quietly.

New research indicates that the Great Southern Reef, a rocky, shallow reef along the Australia's Midwestern coast, used to be known for its dense kelp forests. But in December 2010, an extreme heat wave decimated the kelp, killing 43 percent of the forest. The research, published in the journal Science, found that five years later the forest had yet to recover.

The kelp forests, known for their biodiversity, formed the foundation of the reef ecosystem. Where kelp was lost, so were fish and other species that depend on kelp, and over the past five years, the region has experienced a significant ecosystem shift. Turf seaweed, often found in warmer waters, has taken over, as have subtropical and tropical species like parrotfish and rabbitfish, typically found in coral reefs.

Unfortunately, this may be just the beginning of climate-induced ecosystem shifts.

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Title Annotation:UPWELL
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 21, 2016
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