Thomas Wernberg

Research summary

I am a Professor of Marine Botany and a former Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, based within the UWA’s Oceans Institute.

My research covers a broad spectrum of topics, but my primary interests lie in the ecological interactions in and around shallow sub-tidal habitats. Although my interests are broad, and the principles I study general, much of my work has focused on temperate seaweed-dominated habitats, especially kelp forests.

My research provides understanding of how coastal habitats might respond to stressors such as climate change, marine heatwaves, invasive species and eutrophication. Recently, I have also increased my focus on solutions to habitat decline through restoration and increasing our appreciation of the diversity of services our marine ecosystems provide, such as their potential role in climate mitigation. By working across sub-cellular to macro-ecological scales and connecting fields such as physiology, ecology and biogeography, my research has contributed to an integrated understanding of the complex processes that drive the ecology of near-shore marine environments.

I am an Editor-in-Chief for the journal Aquatic Botany and an Associate Editor for the journals Journal of Phycology, Marine Ecology Progress SeriesMarine and Freshwater Research and Frontiers in Marine Science: Global Change and the Future Ocean. In addition I am an active reviewer for a range of journals and funding agencies.

Wernberg - Diver counting seaweed

Another day at the office: Thomas counting kelp recruits. A kelp canopy removal and recovery experiment in southwestern Australia, to test the resilience of kelp forests to physical disturbance (see Wernberg et al., 2010, Ecol Lett).


My Marine Ecology Family Tree

Teaching & University service

Awards and recognition

  • 2022: Highly-Cited (‘HiCi’) Researcher, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics.
  • 2022: Ranked 373 in the world in Ecology & Evolution by (out of 6,363, top 5.8%)
  • 2021: Highly-Cited (‘HiCi’) Researcher, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics.
  • 2021: Ranked 190 on Reuters’ Hot List of the World’s 1000 most influential climate scientists.
  • 2020: Highly-Cited (‘HiCi’) Researcher, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics.
  • 2020: Ranked 89th highest cited researcher in the world in Marine Biology (top 0.24% of 37,000) by Loannidis et al. (2020, PLoS Biology).
  • 2019: Highly-Cited (‘HiCi’) Researcher, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics.
  • 2018: Adjunct Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark.
  • 2015: Visiting International Lecturer’s award, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
  • 2014: Host, 10th International Temperate Reefs Symposium.
  • 2014: Vice-Chancellors Award for Research Excellence, UWA
  • 2011: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship
  • 2011: UWA Career Development Award.
  • 2010: UWA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.
  • 2010: Best Paper, Research Staff, School of Plant Biology, UWA.
  • 2005: ECU Research Fellowship.
  • 2003: PhD Thesis Distinction (top 5%), UWA.
  • 1999: International PhD Scholarship, Natural Sciences Research Council, Denmark.

Selected publications

A full publication list and pdf’s can be found here.

Citation statistics: Google Scholar.

Wernberg T (2021) Marine heatwave drives collapse of kelp forests in Western Australia. In: Canadell JG, Jackson RB (eds) Ecosystem Collapse and Climate Change. Ecological Studies 241. Springer-Nature. Pp. 325-343.

Wernberg T*, Coleman MA*, Babcock RC, Bell SY, Bolton JJ, Connell SD, Hurd CL, Johnson CR, Marzinelli EM, Shears NT, Steinberg PD, Thomsen MS, Vanderklift MA, Vergés A, Wright JT (2019) Biology and ecology of the globally significant kelp Ecklonia radiata. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, 57: 265–324. *Shared lead authorship.

Wernberg T, Krumhansl K, Filbee-Dexter K, Pedersen MF (2019) Status and trends for the world’s kelp forests. In: World Seas: An Environmental Evaluation, Vol III: Ecological Issues and Environmental Impacts, 2e (Chapter 3). Ed. C. Sheppard. Elsevier. Pp. 57-78. ISBN 9780128052044.

Wernberg T, Coleman MA, Bennett S, Thomsen MS, Tuya F, Kelaher BP (2018) Genetic diversity and kelp forest vulnerability to climatic stress. Scientific Reports, 8: 1851.

Wernberg T, Straub SC (2016) 3.3 Impacts and effects of ocean warming on seaweeds. In: Explaining ocean warming: causes, scale, effects and consequences (eds. Laffoley D, Baxter JM); Full report. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 87-103.

Wernberg T, Bennett S, Babcock RC, de Bettignies T, Cure K, Depczynski M, Dufois F, Fromont J, Fulton CJ, Hovey RK, Harvey ES, Holmes TH, Kendrick GA, Radford B, Santana-Garcon J, Saunders BJ, Smale DA, Thomsen MS, Tuckett CA, Tuya F, Vanderklift MA, Wilson SK (2016) Climate driven regime shift of a temperate marine ecosystem. Science, 353(6295): 169-172.

Wernberg T, Smale, DA, Tuya F, Thomsen MS, Langlois TJ, de Bettignies T, Bennett S,  Rousseaux CS (2013) An extreme climatic event alters marine ecosystem structure in a global biodiversity hotspot, Nature Climate Change, 3: 78-82.

Wernberg, T., Smale, D.A., Verges, A., Campbell, A., Russell, B.D., Coleman, M.A., Ling, S.D., Steinberg, P.D., Johnson, C.R., Kendrick, G.A. & Connell, S.D. (2012). Macroalgae and temperate rocky reefs. In: Poloczanska, E.S., Hobday, A.J. & Richardson, A.J. (eds)  A Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia 2012.

Wernberg, T., Smale, D.S., Thomsen, M.S. (2012) A decade of climate change experiments on marine organisms: procedures, patterns and problems, Global Change Biology, 18: 1491–1498

Wernberg, T., Russell, B.D., Thomsen, M.S., Gurgel, C.F.D., Bradshaw, C.J.A., Poloczanska, E.S., Connell, S.D. (2011) Seaweed communities in retreat from ocean warming. Current Biology, 21: 1828-1832.

Wernberg T., Russell B.D., Moore P.J., Ling S.D., Smale D.A., Campbell A., Coleman M.A., Steinberg P.D., Kendrick G.A., Connell S.D. (2011) Impacts of climate change in a global hotspot for temperate marine biodiversity and ocean warming. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 400: 7-16

Wernberg, T., Thomsen, M.S., Tuya, F., Kendrick, G.A., Staehr, P.A. & Toohey, B.D. (2010) Decreasing resilience of kelp beds along a latitudinal temperature gradient: potential implications for a warmer future. Ecology Letters, 13: 685-694