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Extreme heat in 2023 linked to drastic slump in growth of marine life

Last year’s marine heatwaves saw an unprecedented decline in the growth of phytoplankton and algae, which many animals in the oceans depend on for food

By Madeleine Cuff

19 April 2024

High sea temperatures can hinder the growth of algae such as kelp

Pete Niesen/Alamy

Record-breaking sea temperatures in 2023 may have triggered an unprecedented global decline in the growth of phytoplankton and algae, which form the base of the marine food web.

Last year, swathes of the world’s oceans were gripped by extreme marine heatwaves, caused by climate change and a transition to hotter El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

On average, on any one day…

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