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Scientists Urge Action to Slow OR Kelp Death from Warmer Oceans

Scientists say climate change needs to be tackled in order to save West Coast kelp forests. (Green Fire Productions/Flickr)
Scientists say climate change needs to be tackled in order to save West Coast kelp forests. (Green Fire Productions/Flickr)
February 27, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Kelp forests off the West Coast are being decimated at an alarming rate by marine heat waves linked to climate change, according to a group of marine scientists.

The scientists voiced their concerns in an open letter, published in Science magazine.

According to Fiorenza Micheli, a professor of marine science and co-director of the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University, kelp forests are a sentinel for the health of the oceans.

"We are seeing change that is happening very rapidly and on a very large scale, and it's affecting this ecosystem -- and very little is being done," she states.

Studies predict that unless the world stops dumping increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, marine heat waves will become the "new normal" by the end of this century.

Micheli calls for better monitoring and more research to identify heat resistant types of kelp that can be used for restoration.

The kelp die-offs threaten many species of commercially important fish.

Micheli says the United States must join other countries to tackle the ultimate driver of this problem -- climate change.

"Global action in addressing the ultimate cause of this problem," she stresses. "That is the most important part of this. Everything else is really just a way of buying some time."

Micheli adds that Oregon, California and Washington state need to coordinate efforts to restore damaged kelp forests, remove some of the sea urchins that are overfeeding on the kelp, and protect otters and other species that prey on sea urchins.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR