Threats and knowledge gaps for ecosystem services provided by kelp forests: a northeast Atlantic perspective
Article first published online: 15 SEP 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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Ecology and Evolution
Volume 3, Issue 11, pages 4016–4038, October 2013
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How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2013; 3(11): 4016–4038
- Issue published online: 9 OCT 2013
- Article first published online: 15 SEP 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 15 AUG 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 13 AUG 2013
- Manuscript Received: 3 MAY 2013
- Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship
- European Community Framework Programme
- Research Collaboration Award from the University of Western Australia
- kelp forests;
- marine biodiversity;
- subtidal benthic habitats;
- temperate reefs.
Kelp forests along temperate and polar coastlines represent some of most diverse and productive habitats on the Earth. Here, we synthesize information from >60 years of research on the structure and functioning of kelp forest habitats in European waters, with particular emphasis on the coasts of UK and Ireland, which represents an important biogeographic transition zone that is subjected to multiple threats and stressors. We collated existing data on kelp distribution and abundance and reanalyzed these data to describe the structure of kelp forests along a spatial gradient spanning more than 10° of latitude. We then examined ecological goods and services provided by kelp forests, including elevated secondary production, nutrient cycling, energy capture and flow, coastal defense, direct applications, and biodiversity repositories, before discussing current and future threats posed to kelp forests and identifying key knowledge gaps. Recent evidence unequivocally demonstrates that the structure of kelp forests in the NE Atlantic is changing in response to climate- and non-climate-related stressors, which will have major implications for the structure and functioning of coastal ecosystems. However, kelp-dominated habitats along much of the NE Atlantic coastline have been chronically understudied over recent decades in comparison with other regions such as Australasia and North America. The paucity of field-based research currently impedes our ability to conserve and manage these important ecosystems. Targeted observational and experimental research conducted over large spatial and temporal scales is urgently needed to address these knowledge gaps.