Record Ocean Heatwave Damaging Australian Coast

Written by on January 18, 2013 in Marine Life, Physical Oceanography
View of Jurien Bay, Western Australia.

View of Jurien Bay, Western Australia. Photo credit: oemebamo via photopin cc

New research reveals that a record ocean heatwave is responsible for the decimation of seaweed that provides critical habitat for many species off the coast of Western Australia.

“We’ve surveyed this coastline at three locations – Hamelin Bay, Marmion and Jurien Bay – almost every year since 2006,” said co-author Dr. Daniel Smale of the University of Western Australia (UWA)’s Oceans Institute.

They found that temperatures along 200km of the coastline were two to four degrees higher than normal for many weeks, and at it’s worst, water temperature at Jurien Bay was five degrees higher than normal.

“During this heatwave we found that the seaweed Scytothalia dorycarpa–one of the most prominent habitat-forming species of the temperate coastline–retracted its range some 100km because the extreme temperatures exceeded its physiological threshold,” Dr. Smale explained.

This left reefs uncovered and took valuable habitat away from small invertebrates. The effects don’t stop there, as the lack of seaweed is likely to affect herbivorous fish and larger fish up the food chain.

“This may have far-reaching implications for the structure and functioning of the marine ecosystem in the region, which is a global biodiversity hotspot.”

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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