Climate change is causing Australia to experience a record heat wave with many forest fires and its effects under the sea are much worse.
When Rodney Dillon dived into Trumpeter Bay years ago to catch abalone, his favorite food, he realized that the kelp forest in this area was 'becoming sparse'. Dillon landed and called a scientist at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. 'We are about to lose all kelp, you have to come down and see now,' Mr. Dillon recalls.
"No one can stop this," Dillon told the Washington Post about kelp being "cooked" in seawater.
Mr. Rodney Dillon with his diving suit.(Photo: Washington Post).
Climate change has affected this remote island and giant kelp thrives in cold waters as one of the first victims.
In recent decades, the warming rate of the sea off Tasmania, Australia's southernmost state and gateway to Antarctica, has increased nearly four times the global average, said oceanographers.
More than 95% of the giant kelp - an algae nearly 10 meters high is home to some of the rarest marine life in the world - has died.
Giant kelp was once found throughout Tasmania's east coast. Now there is only a small piece of kelp near Southport, the southernmost tip of the island, where the water is colder.
"This is a hot spot , " said Professor Neil Holbrook, who specializes in ocean warming at the Institute of Ocean and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. "And it is one of the biggest hot spots."
According to data from the Hadley Center, the US government's research agency on climate change, a portion of Tasmania's east coast has warmed to nearly 2 degrees Celsius.
As the water warmed and the kelps disappeared, Mr. Dillon and the descendants of the first inhabitants of Tasmania were gradually losing their connection to the ocean, which had made their culture for millennia. century.
Kelp on Tasmania coast.(Photo: Washington Post).
During the Stone Age about 40,000 years ago, Aboriginal people came to what is today Tasmania, long before the rising sea level turned this area into an island.
Separated from land aborigines, Tasmanian aborigines find abalone among giant kelps, hunt kangaroos and sparrows, turn kelp into gadgets and make jewelry from shells over hundreds of years system.
These were aboriginal lives before the British colonialists took over the land and applied racism to wipe them out.
Now, as their last descendants are trying to be recognized as Tasmania's first owners, climate change is making many marine creatures have a special connection to Tasmanian Aboriginal culture. disappear.
Two of the most severe heat waves ever recorded have occurred in recent years.
The prolonged heat wave in Australia has caused many forest fires.(Photo: Washington Post).
The first heat wave began in 2015. Sea temperatures rise by nearly 3 degrees Celsius in the waters between Tasmania and New Zealand.
The heatwaves of this area usually last for two months. However, the 2015-2016 heatwave lasted up to eight months. Alistair Hobday, who studied the event, compared it to the heatwave in Europe in 2003 that resulted in the deaths of thousands.
Warming waters in Tasmania not only kill giant kelp but also transform the lives of marine animals.
Warm water species are swimming south, where they could not have survived a few years ago. King mackerel, sea urchins, zooplankton and even bacteria from warmer regions now dominate the waters near Antarctica.
However, the species that live in indigenous cold waters have nowhere else to go. Animals like red snapper are used to the frigid water near the shore. They cannot live in deep water between Tasmania and Antarctica.
'Marine animals found only in Australia can disappear,' said Craig Johnson, director of the Center for Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Tasmania's Antarctic and Marine Research Institute. 'There will be many species becoming extinct'.
Nanette Shaw of Launceston, a descendant of Tasmanian aboriginal people, retains the ancestral kelp weaving basket.
The 66-year-old woman said she turned to basket making to ease the pain she experienced as an aboriginal. She suffered from depression and alcoholism and the basket weaving distracted her."I have not drunk alcohol for almost 10 years. When sadness comes, instead of going to drink, I will weave a basket."
Nanette Shaw weaves the basket with kelp.(Photo: Washington Post).
However, if the effects of climate change are getting worse, craftsmanship cannot be passed on to the next generation, Shaw said.
Sea water warms up and becomes more polluted, making shells scarce. 20 years ago, it was difficult to walk on the beach without stepping on them, Ms. Shaw said."Now the beach is only sand," she said.
145 km away on Scamander beach, Mrs. Patsy Cameron, Mrs. Shaw's friend, is looking for shells and kelp to give to her friend.
The shell chain was made by Mrs. Patsy Cameron, 72, and kept in a traditional kelp basket in Beaumaris, Tasmania.(Photo: Washington Post).
Now it takes her nearly a day to find enough shells instead of just two hours like before.
"If climate change affects seaweed, our supply of shells will disappear along with the kelp forest , " the 72-year-old woman said.
Australia is experiencing a record heat wave with numerous forest fires that left nine people dead and more than 700 homes destroyed. However, the tragedy that takes place underwater is much worse, and most of us don't see this.
In 1950, giant kelp covered an area of over 9 million square meters along the Tasmanian coast, Cayne Layton, a researcher at the Antarctic and Marine Research Institute. Today, this area is only 500,000 square meters and is scattered on the coast.
A visitor watches a shell chain exhibition at the Tasmanian Art Gallery in Hobart, Tasmania.(Photo: Washington Post).
Kelps need cold, clean, nutrient-rich water to survive and Tasmnia is losing all three.
This is a serious loss. Divers are eager to swim among the kelp forest to see the world's rarest creatures. Squid foraging in kelp forest, red-hand fish also hide there, lime fish and rock lobster also live here.
The most recent study - done 10 years ago - estimates that 95% of the giant kelp has disappeared due to warmer seawater and more pollution, Layton said. This means the current situation is probably much worse.
In addition, warming sea water has brought a new threat: sea urchin, a favorite food is kelp.
In a 1978 survey by the Antarctic and Marine Research Institute, scientists found a single hedgehog in the cold waters off Tasmania.
Sea urchins like warm water. Now, they are filled with reefs where kelp grows, leaving a barren and lifeless area.
"The importance of kelp forests is equivalent to that of land," Layton said. 'Imagine what the world would be like without trees, a world without kelp forests would be the same. "
Scientists say the East Australia ocean current is the only reason why sea urchins migrate from the warm natural environment near Sydney to the cold water around Tasmania. The East Australian ocean currents carry the larvae of warm water species to places they have never inhabited before.
According to research compiled by Professor Gretta Pecl at the University of Tasmania, toxic algae bloom where giant kelp once once blossomed. Abalone is of inferior quality. The colorful Maori octopus is being replaced by the popular dark octopus in the waters near Sydney. A poisonous yellow-bellied sea snake that lives in warm waters has migrated to this area.
"It cannot be said that these phenomena are caused by climate change," said Holbrook, an ocean research scientist. "What we can say is that the intensity of these events is likely to increase due to climate change."
"It's comparable to smoking," he said. "If you smoke, you increase your chances of getting lung cancer."