Ecology and Climate

Organic-matter flow in kelp forest

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Science  14 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1084-1085
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6407.1084-a

Laminaria ochroleuca is moving north as the climate warms.

PHOTO: AGE FOTOSTOCK/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

As the global climate warms, there are shifts in the geographical distribution of organisms, which can be accompanied by changes in ecosystem functioning. Pessarrodona et al. have been investigating the ecosystem consequences of the climate-driven arrival of warm-temperate kelp forest communities to the northwestern coastlines of Europe. Cycling of organic matter in the ecosystem—through kelp growth, herbivory, and decomposition—was faster in the new communities relative to cycling in native cold-temperate kelp communities. Notably, decomposition of plant detritus occurred 6.5 times faster. The continued northward expansion of warm-temperate kelp can be expected to lead to shifts in the flow of organic matter through these ecosystems and to further changes in associated communities of consumer organisms.

J. Ecol. 10.1111/1365-2745.13053 (2018).

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