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MARINFORSKHAV-Marine ressurser og miljø - havmiljø

Kelp forests in the Anthropocene: unravelling impacts of warming and marine heatwaves from genes to ecosystems

Alternative title: Menneskelig påvirkning på tareskog: effekter av oppvarming og marine hetebølger fra gener til økosystem

Awarded: NOK 11.1 mill.

Increasing temperatures and marine heatwaves are now the most widespread and destructive expressions of climate change in our oceans. Climate change, together with pollution, coastal development, harvesting and aquaculture, has destroyed kelp forests around the world. GEcoKelp aims to understand how warming and marine heatwaves, in combination with other pressures caused by humans, are affecting kelp forests in Norway, at scales from genes to ecosystems. The project will combine genetic analyses of kelp forests across Norway, as well as experiments in the field and laboratory, where kelps will exposed to different kinds of pressure. We will then use results and mathematical models to predict how kelp forests will respond to climate change and human activities in the future. In particular we will test if Norway’s kelp forests can adapt to climate change. This will provide strong information on the future risk to these species and the future of the benefits they provide to society. This information is required to protect vulnerable kelp forests, increase the production of kelp farms and successfully restore kelp forests that have already been lost. To this end, the outcomes of this project will benefit kelp forest conservation and the rapidly growing kelp farming industry, and help pave the way for healthy productive ocean ecosystems. This, in turn, will deliver on Norway’s international commitments towards a sustainable ocean economy and science-based responses to climate change.

Warming and marine heatwaves (MHWs) have emerged as the most pervasive and destructive manifestations of anthropogenic climate change in the marine environment. These stressors are superimposed onto other pressures such as pollution, coastal development, and aquaculture, which together are impacting kelp forests around the world. GEcoKelp aims to understand the effects of warming and marine heatwaves on Norwegian kelp forests in multi-stressor seascapes, at the genomic, ecological and ecosystem level. The project will combine seascape genomics, laboratory and field stress experiments and predictive models to explore links between climate change, human activities and changes in genetic diversity, functional genomic structure (adaptation) and resilience of kelp forests (S. latissima and L. hyperborea) across Norway, and to predict how future stressors could affect the flow of benefits from these valuable ecosystems. This will provide rigorous understanding of the risks these valuable species face. It will enable targeted protection of vulnerable populations and unique genetic diversity, identification of genetic resources and resilient genotypes to increase farming yields and restoration success and identification of low-risk populations for exploitation. GEcoKelp can also inform practices to minimise genetic pollution from extrinsic kelp brood stock and spill-over from farmed kelp strains. This knowledge is critical for devising knowledge-based management of natural kelp forests and the growing kelp industry and will help pave the way for a sustainable future ocean that supports healthy ecosystems and science-based blue growth. This will be a significant step towards the Ocean Panel aim for a sustainable ocean economy and the UN Ocean Decade’s call for science-informed adaptation and policy responses to global change.

Funding scheme:

MARINFORSKHAV-Marine ressurser og miljø - havmiljø