Climate-driven shifts in kelp forest composition reduce carbon sequestration potential

Luka Seamus Wright, Albert Pessarrodona, Andy Foggo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Web of Science)


The potential contribution of kelp forests to blue carbon sinks is currently of great interest but interspecific variance has received no attention. In the temperate Northeast Atlantic, kelp forest composition is changing due to climate-driven poleward range shifts of cold temperate Laminaria digitata and Laminaria hyperborea and warm temperate Laminaria ochroleuca. To understand how this might affect the carbon sequestration potential (CSP) of this ecosystem, we quantified interspecific differences in carbon export and decomposition alongside changes in detrital photosynthesis and biochemistry. We found that while warm temperate kelp exports up to 71% more carbon per plant, it decomposes up to 155% faster than its boreal congeners. Elemental stoichiometry and polyphenolic content cannot fully explain faster carbon turnover, which may be attributable to contrasting tissue toughness or unknown biochemical and structural defenses. Faster decomposition causes the detrital photosynthetic apparatus of L. ochroleuca to be overwhelmed 20 days after export and lose integrity after 36 days, while detritus of cold temperate species maintains carbon assimilation. Depending on the photoenvironment, detrital photosynthesis could further exacerbate interspecific differences in decomposition via a potential positive feedback loop. Through compositional change such as the predicted prevalence of L. ochroleuca, ocean warming may therefore reduce the CSP of such temperate marine forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5514-5531
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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