Regents' Professor Dave Breshears and Sr. Research Specialist Dr. Darin Law, both of SNRE, worked with a team of international colleagues to document the biotic consequences of a severe heat wave in Australia. The heat wave occurred in 2011 and spanned the coast of Western Australia, an area the size of California, impacting marine as well as terrestrial portions of the coast. Their paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, documented tree die-off and coral bleaching that occurred concurrently in response to the heat wave. Additionally, there was other "terrestrial plant mortality, seagrass and kelp loss, population crash of an endangered terrestrial bird species, plummeting breeding success in marine penguins, and outbreaks of terrestrial wood-boring insects". The impacts hit one terrestrial Global Biodiversity Hotspot and two marine World Heritage Areas. The results highlight how vulnerable ecosystems may be to heat waves.
The paper has received substantial attention and is in the top 1% for attention to articles of this age, based on Altmetric. You can hear a story about this study and a related one on NPR's All Things considered here.
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