I am very pleased to announce that the Edwards Lab's first paper from our 2016-2017 Aleutian Archipelago research trip has been published in PLOS One! You can access, "Marine deforestation leads to widespread loss of ecosystem function" here
Trophic interactions can result in changes to the abundance and distribution of habitat-form- ing species that dramatically reduce ecosystem functioning. In the coastal zone of the Aleu- tian Archipelago, overgrazing by herbivorous sea urchins that began in the 1990s resulted in widespread deforestation of the region’s kelp forests, which led to lower macroalgal abun- dances and higher benthic irradiances. We examined how this deforestation impacted eco- system function by comparing patterns of net ecosystem production (NEP), gross primary production (GPP), ecosystem respiration (Re), and the range between GPP and Re in rem- nant kelp forests, urchin barrens, and habitats that were in transition between the two habitat types at nine islands that spanned more than 1000 kilometers of the archipelago. Our results show that deforestation, on average, resulted in a 24% reduction in GPP, a 26% reduction in Re, and a 24% reduction in the range between GPP and Re. Further, the transition habitats were intermediate to the kelp forests and urchin barrens for these metrics. These opposing metabolic processes remained in balance; however, which resulted in little-to-no changes to NEP. These effects of deforestation on ecosystem productivity, however, were highly vari- able between years and among the study islands. In light of the worldwide declines in kelp forests observed in recent decades, our findings suggest that marine deforestation pro- foundly affects how coastal ecosystems function.
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary