We’re all familiar with what warming oceans are going to well-known species in the Gulf of Maine like cod (bad) and lobsters (good so far but not so good in the long run). But, of course, a system-wide change is going to affect pretty much everything, including species we don’t think about … like kelp.

Studies around Appledore Island, part of the Isles of Shoals that straddles the Maine-New Hampshire border just off the coast, have found that kelp beds are struggling due to invasive species as well as warming oceans, reports the Portland Press-Herald in this story.

Kelp is incredibly resilient and has been known to bounce back from storms and heat waves. But in Maine, it has struggled to recover following an explosion of voracious sea urchins in the 1980s that wiped out many kelp beds. Now, it must survive in waters that are warming faster than the vast majority of the world’s oceans – most likely forcing kelp to migrate northward or into deeper waters. “What the future holds is more complicated,” Byrnes said. “If the Gulf of Maine warms sufficiently, we know kelp will have a hard time holding on.”

Of course, change isn’t always bad. A new ecosystem would still be an ecosystem, although whether it’s one we want to live in – that’s the trucky part.

Their study, published by the Journal of Ecology in April, examined photos of seaweed populations and dive logs going back 30 years in the Gulf of Maine. They found introduced species from as far away as Asia, such as the filamentous red seaweed, had increased by as much 90 percent and were covering 50 to 90 percent of the gulf’s seafloor. They are seeing far fewer ocean pout, wolf eel and pollock that once were commonplace in these kelp beds. But they also are finding that the half-dozen invasive seaweeds replacing kelp are harboring up to three times more tiny shrimp, snails and other invertebrates.

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