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    July 19, 2011 | 1:04 PM

    Is warming making seaweed sick?

    Source: Teddy Llovet

    For coastal nations like Australia and New Zealand, fishing is an important source of income, recreation and culture. In the Australian state of New South Wales alone, the seafood industry employed more than 4,000 people in 2008 -- mostly from small family businesses that have been fishing for generations. Those family traditions rely on healthy fish habitat. But recent research shows that climate change may be increasing the risk of disease in a habitat-forming seaweed called Delisea pulchra. The seaweed, found around southeastern Australia, northern New Zealand and Antarctica, normally produces chemicals that defend it from bacterial infections. The study suggests that when water off the coast of New South Wales gets too warm, the seaweed has trouble producing its natural antibiotics and gets sick. Leaders in Australia's government already know that climate change is a threat to wildlife, habitats and the people who depend on them. In fact, climate change has been legally considered a "Key Threatening Process" to species since 1999. As this new study shows, however, it's not just cute species like pink robins and mountain pygmy possums at risk. Climate change also affects the very base of the food chain.

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