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Title: Southward decrease in the protection of persistent giant kelp forests in the northeast Pacific

Kelp forests are globally important and highly productive ecosystems, yet their persistence and protection in the face of climate change and human activity are poorly known. Here, we present a 35-year time series of high-resolution satellite imagery that maps the distribution and persistence of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) forests along ten degrees of latitude in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. We find that although 7.7% of giant kelp is protected by marine reserves, when accounting for persistence only 4% of kelp is present and protected. Protection of giant kelp decreases southerly from 20.9% in Central California, USA, to less than 1% in Baja California, Mexico, which likely exacerbates kelp vulnerability to marine heatwaves in Baja California. We suggest that a two-fold increase in the area of kelp protected by marine reserves is needed to fully protect persistent kelp forests and that conservation of climate-refugia in Baja California should be a priority.

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Award ID(s):
1736830 1831937
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Communications Earth & Environment
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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