Marine Life Threatened

Not by Fire but by Ice



 Updated 13 July 2005      


Warmer oceans may be killing West Coast marine life 

– 13 July 2005 -
Scientists suspect that rising ocean temperatures and 
dwindling plankton populations are behind a growing number of seabird 
deaths, reports of fewer salmon and other anomalies along the West Coast.

Coastal ocean temperatures are 2 to 5 degrees above normal, apparently
caused by a lack of upwelling.— a process that brings cold, nutrient-rich 
water to the surface and jump-starts the marine food chain.

This spring, a record number of dead seabirds washed up on beaches from 
central California to British Columbia … five to 10 times the highest number 
of bird deaths seen before.

"Something big is going on out there," said Julia Parrish, an associate 
professor in the School of Aquatic Fisheries and Sciences at the University  
of Washington . "I'm left with no obvious smoking gun, but birds are a good 
signal because they feed high up on the food chain."

"In 50 years, this has never happened," said Bill Peterson, an oceanographer 
with NOAA in Newport, OR. "If this continues, we will have a food chain 
that is basically impoverished from the very lowest levels."

NOAA's June and July surveys of juvenile salmon off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia indicate a 20 to 30 percent drop in populations, compared with surveys from 1998-2004, especially coho and chinook.

"Nobody saw this coming," said Bill Sydeman, director of marine ecology at Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

Higher water temperatures are typically seen during an El Niņo. But this is not an El Niņo year.


See also It's not global warming, it's ocean warming




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