Recent Heatwave Likely Killed 1B+ Marine Animals
Canada’s recent heatwave, which saw temperatures above 100°F, essentially cooked more than 1 billion mussels, snails, sea stars, clams, oysters, rockfish, and other shallow-water mollusks and sea creatures, according to estimates from University of British Columbia marine biologist Chris Harley.
Mussels can typically tolerate temperatures of approx 100°F for short periods of time, but the ‘heat dome’ that covered areas of British Columbia caused areas of the rocky shore to reach temperatures above 122°F.
Christopher Harley told the Guardian, ‘It was so hot when I was out with a student that we collected data for a little bit and then retreated to the shade and ate frozen grapes, but of course, the mussels, sea stars, and clams don’t have that option.’
According to Harley, shellfish like mussels and clams filter ocean water in order to eat. This keeps the water clear enough for sunlight to reach below the surface. With this mass death, life below the surface will also be negatively impacted.
This mass death of sea creatures makes Harley concerned for the future.
‘A lot of species are not going to be able to keep up with the pace of change. Ecosystems are going to change in ways that are really difficult to predict. We don’t know where the tipping points are.’