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Anthropogenic stressors are increasingly impacting the biodiversity and functioning of marine species and habitats. Kelps form marine forests along rocky polar to temperate coastlines worldwide, providing valuable resources, habitat and services for coastal communities. However, many kelp forests are ...

Anthropogenic stressors are increasingly impacting the biodiversity and functioning of marine species and habitats. Kelps form marine forests along rocky polar to temperate coastlines worldwide, providing valuable resources, habitat and services for coastal communities. However, many kelp forests are currently under threat from global change with large-scale declines in their abundance and some are even becoming extinct in warming hotspots or near distributional equatorward edges. These changes will have severe impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In addition, the adverse impacts of global change are also affecting seaweed production globally, causing a reduction of yield and quality, leading to poorer harvests and higher production costs.

Most studies on the impact of anthropogenic stressors on kelps are focused on the macroscopic adult sporophyte stage of the haplo-diploid life cycle of kelp, although microscopic gametophytic stages are critical for kelp persistence. The microscopic stages are considered a “black box” due to the difficulty of studying them in their natural habitat. Although early life stages can be more sensitive to environmental stressors, banks of dormant microscopic forms have been hypothesized to be critical for population persistence as oceans experience more frequent environmental anomalies. These dormant forms may also be especially important for the recolonization of kelp populations that experience complete sporophyte mortality due to large-scale disturbances. Therefore, research focusing on early life stage, from spore dispersal to juvenile sporophytes via gametophytes, should be prioritized.

This Research Topic aims to fill this gap, contributing to the opening of the kelps “black box” by providing greater insight into the response of microscopic life stages to anthropogenic stressors and elucidating their importance for the establishment and persistence of kelps forest in nature. Furthermore, this knowledge will help predict future distribution trends and be employed to secure the seaweed aquaculture sector and restoration strategies in future climate change scenarios. We seek to compile a broad range of manuscripts that reveal the responses of kelp early life stages to a multitude of stressors. Strategies promoting sustainable seaweed aquaculture and population restoration based on these life stages are also welcome. Contributions can include Research Articles, Methods, Reviews and Mini Reviews.

We welcome contributions that address:
• The impact of anthropogenic stressors in early life stage processes;
• The influence of kinship on kelp response to anthropogenic stressors;
• Ecological investigations providing insight into the “banks of microscopic forms” and their potential to act as a mechanism of resilience and recovery in kelp populations;
• Breeding strategies using parental microscopic material to improve the environmental adaptability of seaweed cultivation;
• Modelling efforts integrating abiotic constraints associated with biological processes in early stages;
• Conservation strategies relying on microscopic material adapted to environmental stressors (e.g. priming of gametophytes) to restore degraded kelp forests.

Keywords: climate change, dormancy, gametophytes, microscopic life stages, spores, resilience


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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