Research published on October 27, 2011, in the journal Current Biology indicate that global warming has produced a migration of seaweed in the southern hemisphere that could produce an extinction of the seaweed and the species that depend on the seaweed for food and habitat.
This is the first study of the effects of global warming on ocean life that targets the effects of temperature change on the southern hemisphere.
Over 1500 species of seaweed were examined spanning the last 40 years. Chemical and physical characteristics of seaweed growth and reaction to stress can be determined much like the effect seen in tree ring studies. The research covers over 20,000 individual records collected by numerous individuals over the last 40 years.
The researchers found that as many as 25% of the present temperate species of seaweed could become extinct in the next 50 years if ocean temperatures continue to rise.
The temperate seaweeds have migrated to cooler areas due to temperature stress and have become subtropical. The further migration of these species would produce their ultimate extinction.
This research is indicative of what may occur in the Indian and Pacific oceans due to climate change.
Thomas Wernberg of the University of Western Australia led the research.
This information was made public at the Eureka Alert web site on October 27, 2011.