• UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    UCSB Wins Second Straight, Cruise Past Hawaii 7-0 https://t.co/amzRBbW6KM
    10 hours 38 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Professor Pai of UCSB’s EACS is more than an expert in modern Chinese literature — he practically invented it! https://t.co/53lmKBy2Dk
    12 hours 34 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos Blank San Diego State 7-0 to Open 2017 Dual Season https://t.co/KR324kOkWZ
    1 day 8 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos Storm Back From 15 Down in 2nd Half, Beat Mustangs 58-53 https://t.co/qj5Fipu1ql
    1 day 8 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball find a way to make 3s late for the comeback win against Cal Poly!
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball BEATS RIVAL CAL POLY 58-51!!! Alex Hart with 15 points and 11 rebounds!!
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball leads 58-51 with 25.5 seconds. Gabe Vincent sinks two clutch free throws to put the Gauchos ahead by 7
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    BIG TIME 3 BY CLIFTON POWELL JR PUTS THE GAUCHOS UP BY 6 WITH 48.8 SECONDS LEFT IN THE GAME
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball leads Cal Poly 55-49 with 1 minute to play!!!!
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball up against Cal Poly 50-46 with 4 minutes left in the game. Alex Hart leads the way with 15 points and 11 rebounds
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball GOES ON A RUN TO TIE THE GAME 46-46 WITH 6 MINUTES LEFT IN THE GAME.
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball goes on a run to cut the lead to 7 with 7:48 left in the game. Alex Hart leads all scorers with 13 points
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    @UCSBbasketball down 32-41 against Cal Poly with 11:34 in the game. Alex Hart leads the way with 13 points for the Gauchos
    1 day 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Cal Poly extends their lead to 13 with 16:16 left in the game. Cal Poly 39 UCSB 26
    1 day 11 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos shooting a mere 34.55% from the field to Cal Poly's 52.2%
    1 day 11 hours ago

Kelp Beats the Heat

Using long-term ecological data, marine scientists evaluate the sentinel status of giant kelp during a recent marine heat wave
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 08:00
Santa Barbara, CA

Giant kelp and fish.jpg

A school of halfmoons in a giant kelp forest off southern California.

Photo Credit: 

Ron McPeak

Reed, Washburn, Miller & Harrer.jpg

From left: Dan Reed, Libe Washburn, Robert Miller and Shannon Harrer.

Photo Credit: 

Sonia Fernandez

In early 2014, when a large-scale marine heat wave in the Pacific Ocean produced temperature anomalies greater than anything seen since recordkeeping began in the early 1900s, marine scientists saw something else, too: opportunity.

Ocean researchers at UC Santa Barbara quickly seized the chance to evaluate the sentinel status of giant kelp forests along the Southern California coastline as an indicator of climate change. They expected forests of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), known to be sensitive to such increases as well as to the resulting low-nutrient conditions, to respond quite rapidly to a rise in water temperature.

However, to the scientists’ surprise, that was not the case. The kelp, they discovered, was all right. Their findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

“The response that we saw in kelp was really no different than what we’d seen in our temporal record,” explained lead author Daniel Reed, deputy director of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI). “The values were low but not necessarily lower than what we’d seen during cool-water years.”

Giant kelp does not have the capacity to store nutrients for very long (only about three weeks), and in the absence of new nutrients, the kelp cannot support its rapid growth of about 2 percent per day. The standing biomass — the amount of living kelp present at a given time — is relatively transitory and turns over about seven times a year.

“Each frond only lives about three to four months,” Reed said. “So when you have something that grows rapidly and doesn’t live long, you would expect its standing biomass to respond rapidly if it’s subjected to really adverse growing conditions for a long time.”

The researchers used kelp records from a 34-year time series of data taken by Landsat satellites, which — among many other characteristics — measured kelp canopies. The investigators analyzed kelp biomass from Santa Barbara to San Diego through time and related it to sea surface temperatures at those sites.

The data showed some large positive temperature anomalies that were unprecedented. For example, in September 2015, the water in the Santa Barbara Channel averaged 4.5 degrees Celsius higher than normal for the entire month. Daily anomalies went as high as 5.5 degrees Celsius. Despite these high temperatures, the team saw no dramatic response by giant kelp whose biomass remained within the range observed during the decades-long time series when the water was cooler.

“Nobody knows how this warming event relates to climate change, other than we’ve not seen this before,” said co-author Libe Washburn, an oceanographer at the MSI and a professor in UCSB’s Department of Geography. “That’s somewhat alarming, but this work may provide some insight into how these kelp forests would respond to future climate warming.”

The team also examined changes in understory algae, invertebrates and fishes of the giant kelp ecosystem and found that they didn’t show much of a response to the warming event either. Sea urchins and sea stars were the exception as they declined dramatically due to a disease that was linked to the warm-water event.     

“The fact that we did not see drastic responses in the rest of the community tells us that we don’t know everything we think we know about this system and about its ecology,” Reed noted. “The results have caused us to pursue lines of research that try to understand how this happens. More importantly, the findings underscore the value of long-term data in terms of trying to tease apart these trends.”

Other UCSB co-authors include Tom Bell, Robert Miller and Shannon Harrer. Andrew Rassweiler of Florida State University also was a contributor.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research program, the NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting program, the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management Environmental Studies program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in support of the Santa Barbara Channel Marine Biodiversity Observation Network. 

Contact Info: 

Julie Cohen
(805) 893-7220
julie.cohen@ucsb.edu