A billion tidal creatures likely baked to death in B.C. heat wave

A billion tidal creatures likely baked to death in B.C. heat wave

By Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The ecological devastation of B.C.’s recent heat wave is just starting to be understood after record temperatures paired with low tides wreaked havoc along the West Coast.

More than one billion marine intertidal animals may have perished along the shores of the Salish Sea during the record temperatures at the end of June, said University of British Columbia researcher Chris Harley.

The heat and the stench was staggering after masses of mussels, barnacles, clams, hermit crabs, and starfish cooked to death at a number of Lower Mainland beaches, said Harley.

The marine ecologist, who specializes in the effects of climate change, started surveying the impacts of the extreme heat at Kitsilano Beach and Lighthouse Park — where Harley recorded temperatures of up to 50 C along the black, rocky shoreline.

“Walking out on the shore, the first thing that I noticed was the smell,” Harley said.

“We realized most of the mussels had already died, and everything that was sitting in the sun was in real trouble.”

Mussels, sea stars, hermit crabs and other creatures perished during the extreme heat during low tides.

The hottest days coincided with extremely low tides, leaving marine creatures stranded in the heat for up to six hours.

The heat wave — which is also likely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of British Columbians — triggered temperatures of close to 40 C in areas along the typically temperate coast. And that is a powerful bellwether for what’s in store for us from climate change, Harley said.

“There are more heat waves, and they are more severe,” he said, adding the baseline for climate conditions is shifting rapidly.

This item is reprinted with permission from the National Observer. For the complete article, click HERE

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