Tasmania is on the frontline of global, marine climate change impacts with Tasmania’s east coast recognised as a climate change hotspot. The warm, nutrient-poor waters of the East Australian Current are flowing further south causing Tassie’s east coast to warm up at four times the global rate. This warming has been linked to the devastating loss of 95% of Tasmania’s iconic giant kelp forests.
Tassie is also experiencing an influx of new species travelling south to find cooler waters, some of which are extremely problematic, causing devastation to marine ecosystems. For example, the long-spined sea urchin leaves nothing but desolate “urchin barrens” in their path. The RedMAP project, a citizen science project spearheaded by scientists at Tasmania’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) has found that 50% of inter-tidal species and dozens of fish species have extended their range further southwards in the last 50 years. The gloomy octopus has now expanded its range south to Tasmania in high enough numbers to be commercially fished.
Climate change also exacerbates existing stressors on the marine environment, of which there are many.