The Climate Crisis Is Now Cooking Mussels in Their Shells
An early June heat wave cooked the mussels of Northern California's Bodega Head in their shells, causing the largest die-off of the foundational species in the area in 15 years, The Guardian reported Saturday.
The carnage was first observed by Bodega Marine Reserve research coordinator Jackie Sones, who said she had never seen such a massive death toll in her years of field work along the Northern California coast.
"In the past we've seen patches die, but in this case it was everywhere," Sones told Bay Nature. "Every part of the mussel bed I touched, there were mussels that had died."
"Future die-offs could rewrite the ecology of California’s rocky shoreline, where mussels are a foundation species… https://t.co/K9FlJzMQ55— Bay Nature magazine (@Bay Nature magazine)1561592100.0
"These events are definitely becoming more frequent, and more severe," University of British Columbia biologist Christopher Harley told The Guardian. "Mussels are one of the canaries in the coal mine for climate change, only this canary provides food and habitat for hundreds of other species."
Sones said she first observed the die-off while doing fieldwork in Bodega Bay. First, she noticed algae bleached white and red. Then, she saw the mussels.
"A large percentage of the mussels were open and gaping, some were empty and some still had tissue inside," Sones wrote in a July 18 blog post.
Other scientists reported similar die-offs to what Sones observed along around 140 miles of coastline in Bodega Head, a headland of Northern California's bay, according to The Guardian.
"Mussels are known as a foundation species. The equivalent are the trees in a forest — they provide shelter and habitat for a lot of animals, so when you impact that core habitat it ripples throughout the rest of the system," Sones told The Guardian. "I would expect that this actually impacted the entire region, it's just that you would have to have people out there to document it to know."
Sones believed the die-off happened during a series of mid-day low tides during an early June heat wave. On June 11, temperatures at Bodega Bay reached 75 degrees Fahrenheit. That might not sound like much of a heat wave by human standards, but Northeastern University marine ecologist Brian Helmuth told Bay Nature that a marine creature glued to a rock could see its tissue temperature rise to 105 degrees in those conditions.
The problem wasn't only the heat, but when it happened, as Bay Nature explained:
Typically the hottest days at the California coast occur later in the summer and into the fall, when, fortunately for tidepool animals, the lowest low tides happen early in the morning or late at night. But in the spring and early summer the low tides shift to the late morning or early afternoon. The more unusual early-season heat waves there are, the greater the chance they line up with those mid-day low tides, the harder it gets for mussels. Future die-offs could rewrite the ecology of California's rocky shoreline, where mussels are a foundation species that hundreds of other animals depend on.
The incident is an example of how sensitive ecosystems are to climate change.
"Small changes in temperature can produce big effects," Harley wrote in a paper reported by Bay Nature about a similar die-off in Bodega Bay he studied in 2004.
Helmuth gave the example of lobsters, which have already left New York because ocean temperatures are too warm, but are now thriving in Maine, where temperatures are slightly above average. If those temperatures increase much more, however, they will likely drive the lobsters farther north to Canada.
"The really insidious thing," Helmuth told Bay Nature, "is there's an optimal temperature where organisms do the best, and it's really close to the temperature where they crash."
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People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>