In fact, these lush underwater forests are particularly striking in the Arctic, where terrestrial coasts are barren and ice scoured with little three-dimensional structure.
KELPEX has published a review in Global and Planetary Change that synthesizes existing information on arctic kelp forests, analyzes recent changes environmental conditions at known kelp locations, and explores the impacts of these changes.
Predictive models and laboratory experiments suggest the ‘borealization’ of arctic kelp forests will occur as temperatures warm, altering the species composition of existing cold and ice-adapted kelp communities in high Arctic regions. A warmer Arctic with less sea ice may support more kelp. However, melting sea ice and permafrost may offset this by increasing turbidity in coastal areas.
Arctic coasts are in line to become one of the most impacted environments in the world under changing climate. Kelp forests provide a key example of the regional diversity of responses to climate change. What is clear is that extensive ecological changes are likely to occur in these rapidly changing environments, with both ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ consequences for a range of species.