A marine biologist at the College of British Columbia estimates that last week’s file-breaking heat wave in B.C. may have killed extra than one billion intertidal animals living along the Salish Sea coastline.
Chris Harley walked on to Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach in late June and smelled death.
Carpeting the sea rocks were tens of thousands of mussels, clams, sea stars and snails, emitting a tainted odour that hung thick in the heat.
“I was aesthetic haunted,” he recalled.
Harley, a marine biologist at the College of British Columbia, now estimates that last week’s file-breaking heat wave in B.C. may have killed extra than one billion seashore animals living along the Salish Sea coastline.
The findings shine a light on the seismic effects of the heat wave, which has already has been linked to hundreds of human deaths and whose ecological toll continues to be unravelled.
As temperatures cracked 40 C in Vancouver, and several levels larger in B.C.’s Interior, infrared cameras veteran by Harley’s team recorded temperatures above 50 C on rocky shoreline habitats.
Intertidal animals treasure mussels, which inhabit the area where land and sea meet, can endure temperatures in the high 30s for temporary periods of time, Harley said.
Nonetheless the scorching heat, combined with low tides in the heart of the afternoon, created a dangerous combination for extra than six hours at a time.
“A mussel on the shore in some ways is treasure a toddler left in a car on a scorching day,” Harley said.
“They are caught there except the parent comes back, or in this case, the tide comes back in and there is little or no they can carry out. They’re at the mercy of the atmosphere. And on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, during the heat wave, it preferrred purchased so scorching that the mussels, there was nothing they may carry out.”
Water quality will probably be impacted
Tipped off by the scent on the Sunday morning of the heat wave, Harley and a team of student researchers began to canvas a couple of coastlines, including these in West Vancouver and on the Sunshine Coast.
They found infinite rows of mussels with dead meat attached inside the shell, along with other dead creatures treasure sea stars and barnacles.
Harley calculated the number of dead animals found in small areas and multiplied it by the habitat measurement in the Salish Sea, which spans from Campbell River, B.C., to Olympia, Wash.
“You can fit about 2,000 mussels in an area the dimensions of your stovetop,” he said.
“Imagine how many stovetops you may fit into Stanley Park, and then how many Stanley Parks fit into the Salish Sea. So while you may very neatly be losing a few hundred or a few thousand mussels for each major shoreline, that rapidly scales up to a very, very large number.”
The wipe-out will temporarily affect water quality, as mussels and clams assist filter the sea, Harley said.
While the mussel mattress will probably get neatly in a year or two, Harley noted that heat waves will happen extra usually and with greater severity due to climate change.
“Eventually, we preferrred gained’t be able to sustain these populations of filter feeders on the shoreline to be anywhere near the extent that we’re veteran to,” he said.
Harley said similar discoveries of dead shellfish have already been made in the Strait of Georgia and Washington state. He plans to visit the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island to verify seashore deaths in these areas, with the aim of publishing a admire-reviewed paper as early as subsequent year.
The deaths, he said, are a reminder that the atmosphere is suffering severe penalties from outrageous weather occasions.
“If we accomplish no longer treasure it, then we want to work harder to minimize emissions and take other measures to minimize the outcomes of climate change.”