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While constant change characterises ecology, subtidal ecologists seem set to take a deep dive in to the biological processes that accelerate and compensate for environmental change. Similar to the technological and collaborative progress that benefited the present generation of authors, continuing progress may assist future generations of subtidal ecologists to figure out why kelp forests are characterised by global mosaics of long-term loss, gain and stasis. Where and how might kelp decline or flourish or simply persist future ocean change? Our review takes a biogeographic perspective to synthesise ecological patterns and the processes that create them. On this basis, we consider the modification of ecological processes by oceans undergoing physical and chemical change and, as a result, consider their future ecology. We find that future oceans will make life beyond the capacity of kelp to exist on many coasts, but not all coasts will be beyond the capacity of a kelp’s life. Consequently, this review provides a sign post for future research into the future decline or persistence or even increase of kelp forests.
Conservation planning often relies on measures such as species richness and abundance to prioritize areas for protection. Nonetheless, alternative metrics such as functional traits have recently been shown to be useful complementary measures for detecting biological change. Timely conservation planning often precludes the collection of such detailed biological data relying instead on remotely-sensed habitat mapping as a surrogate for diversity. While there is evidence that habitat maps may predict taxonomic species richness and diversity in some coastal ecosystems, it is unknown whether similar strong relationships exist for functional traits and functional multimetrics. We compared the performance of physical habitat structural complexity obtained from high definition swath mapping in explaining variation in traditional taxonomic metrics as well as functional traits (e.g., maximum length, trophic level, gregariousness) and functional multimetrics (e.g., functional richness, dispersion) of fish assemblages. Reef complexity measures were good surrogates for fish species richness and abundance but not for functional traits or multimetrics, except functional richness at the scale of 1 m. Remotely sensed habitat maps may not be a good surrogate for predicting functional traits and multimetrics of fish assemblages, and must be used with caution when maximizing such aspects of assemblages is a priority for conservation planning.
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