How The Lush Underwater Forests Of The Arctic Are (and why they are growing while in other parts of the ocean they disappear)

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These underwater jungles manage to survive in temperatures close to the freezing point and in the midst of long periods of darkness.

A hostile climate reigns on the surface of the Arctic, with extreme temperatures and an arid and desolate landscape.

But beneath its gigantic blocks of ice grows a lush forest of kelp called kelp , some of which are 60 meters deep.

These underwater jungles manage to survive in temperatures close to the freezing point and in the midst of long periods of darkness.

And they work just like a terrestrial jungle. They serve as a habitat for many species that use it as shelter and food , in addition to filtering the passage of light and dampening currents.

According to Karen Filbee-Dexter, marine ecology researcher at Laval University in Canada, more than 350 species can live in a kelp plant, while many fish, birds and mammals depend on this underwater forest.

Kelp also helps to protect the coasts, since it diminishes the force of the waves during the storms and reduces the erosion , explains Filbee-Dexter in an article published in the portal The Conversation.

In addition, it also serves as food for humans.

The effects of climate change

Kelp also grows in regions of Australia, eastern Canada, southern Europe, northern California and the east coast of the United States.

In those regions the kelp is disappearing due to the increase in water temperatures.

However, a recent investigation led by Filbee-Dexter shows that although the Arctic is warming faster than other regions of the world, these changes could be favoring the growth of kelp forests.

How The Lush Underwater Forests Of The Arctic Are (and why they are growing while in other parts of the ocean they disappear)

According to the study, the heating of the water causes the retreat of the ice walls , which in turn allows a greater passage of light towards the bottom, something that benefits the marine plants.

Kelp has managed to survive in colder waters than is considered optimal for this type of plants, so the increase in temperatures would offer conditions in which they can reach their maximum growth.

But according to Filbee-Dexter, the picture is more complex.

How The Lush Underwater Forests Of The Arctic Are (and why they are growing while in other parts of the ocean they disappear)

In regions such as Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Siberia, ice sheets that had been frozen for thousands of years are now shrinking by about 50 cm per year.

This causes Arctic coasts to fall off and sediment to be poured into the water , which blocks light and could limit the growth of algae.

The flow of the melting glaciers would also reduce the salinity of the water and make it more turbid, harming the growing algae.

How The Lush Underwater Forests Of The Arctic Are (and why they are growing while in other parts of the ocean they disappear)

The future of kelp

Filbee-Dexter warns that since the Arctic is one of the areas where the effects of climate change will most be seen, it is necessary to understand how it will impact kelp.

The expansion of kelp can serve as an input and source of income to communities that are threatened by climate change, so the researcher believes that understanding their development should be a priority for the Arctic nations.

“The fact that we can not see the forests that grow in the Arctic does not mean we should not appreciate them and recognize the crucial role they play in the ocean,” says the scientist.

How The Lush Underwater Forests Of The Arctic Are (and why they are growing while in other parts of the ocean they disappear)

 

Source: La Prensa