The following infographic was made to facilitate the understanding of the results obtained by a team of scientists from the University of Western Australia and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). The infographic was published in trade press accompanying an article about the study.
Research on kelp forests
The study deals with the impacts that an extreme climatic event had on kelp forests at Western Australia and yields evidence on how the extension of kelp (Ecklonia radiata) and its associated ecosystem disappeared along 100km of the Australian coast after the influence of a heat wave that affected the continent in 2011. Consequently, after this event, kelp communities were replaced by tropical species that were previously located in lower latitudes. After more than 5 years of this climatic event, they were no signs of recovery of the original ecosystem.
Therefore, this research not only provides evidence of the devastating effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, but also demonstrates the rapidity with which these can occur. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Science. The title of the publication is Climate-driven regime of a temperate marine ecosystem, and spread internationally by various means of communication.
In the framework of the research, we had the pleasure of collaborating with some of the project scientists in the design of the following infographic. Its objective was to facilitate the communication of their main results. The graphic shows in a schematic way the changes that took place in the marine communities on the west coast of the Australian continent, between Latitudes 28 ° S and 34 ° S, before, during and after the influence of the heat wave.
Specifically, the infographic shows that the populations of kelp, which in years before the heat wave (2006) extended even further to the north of the town of Kalbarri, were displaced by tropical communities from lower latitudes taking advantage of the ocean warming (year 2011 ). After several years of the influence of the heat wave (2015, 2016 data not available) the environmental conditions have already returned to their original state. However, at that date, marine communities did not show signs of recovery.
In addition, the main scheme was completed with a chart explaining the existing feed-back process that prevents the regeneration of the original ecosystem in the affected area. In it, we can see how the influence of the Leeuwin Current, which direction south, and the grazing activity carried out by tropical herbivorous fish impedes kelp to recolonize the sea floor towards latitudes farther north of the 29 ° S.