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An unprecedented heatwave reshapes marine ecosystem in WA

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

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An international collaboration, involving an ECU student Thibaut de Bettignies, reported ‘An extreme climatic event alters marine ecosystem structure in a global biodiversity hotspot' which wasrecently published in the journal Nature Climate Change. They found a dramatic shift in fish and benthic communities in Jurien Bay after the most severe marine heatwave ever recorded in south-western Western Australia. The reductions in large cool-water seaweeds and the increase in warm-water species led to a rapid change from a structurally diverse kelp bed to simple mats of algal turfs (i.e. ‘depauperate ecological state’) and a tropicalization of fish communities. Together, these findings and the increase occurrence of heatwaves highlight the need to consider the impact of such discrete events when predicting ecological responses to gradual climate warming. For the full paper, visit: www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1627.html

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