Climate change threatens underwater microbiome


The ongoing effects of climate change is further compromising the health of microbiome of kelp forests, potentially compromising the health of the world’s fisheries.

Researchers from the University of Sydney and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science have found that climate change can potentially lead to declines in the health of underwater kelp forests through ocean acidification.

Predicted ocean warming and acidification can change microbes on the kelp surface, leading to disease and potentially putting Australia’s two biggest fisheries – the lucrative rock lobster and abalone markets – at risk.

The research shows that ocean acidification is leading to a broad range of symptoms within the kelp forests, including blistering, bleaching events and possible death. Meaning that the 8000km long kelp forests that dominate the country’s coast lines could face an uncertain future.

The destruction of the kelp forests could wipe off an estimated $10 billion of the country’s economy if the dependent fisheries also dry up.

“If we lose the kelp forests, we also lose our two biggest fisheries,” research lead Dr Ziggy Marzinelli said.

“Our study shows the effects of climate change can be complex, driven by changes in tiny organisms – microbes – that cannot be seen,” Dr Marzinelli said. “Changes in the microbiome impacts the life of the host. When you have disruption to the microbiome in the human gut, it affects your health. It’s the same for seaweed. One of the consequences you see is clusters of blisters on the surface of the kelp.”

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