• Academic publication

Emergence of the subtropical sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii as a threat to kelp forest ecosystems in northern New Zealand

Balemi C & Shears N (August 2023)

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Marine protected areas have long been proposed as a key tool to restore lost food web interactions and increase the resilience of ecosystems to climate change impacts. However, a changing climate can result in the arrival of new species or differentially affect native species, which can alter ecosystem dynamics and make it difficult to predict how ecosystems will respond to protection.

The long-spined sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii is a well-known range extender with large impacts on kelp forest ecosystems, yet its response to warming and long-term marine protection has not been examined within its native range. We examine longterm trends in C. rodgersii and the endemic sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus following no-take protection within the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, in northeastern New Zealand, from 1999-2022, and compare with population trends at an unprotected island group.

The findings highlight the emerging threat of C. rodgersii to rocky reefs in the region and how marine protection alone may not increase resilience to this threat. This suggests multifaceted management approaches are needed to mitigate the impacts of emerging pest species and increase the resilience of temperate reef ecosystems in a warming climate.