In all her years at Bodega Bay, marine science coordinator Jackie Sones had never seen anything like that: lots of dead shells on the rocks, her clams gaping and scorching, her meat thoroughly cooked.
A Record The June heatwave apparently caused the largest mussel death in at least 15 years in Bodega Head, a small headland in the Northern California Bay. And Sones received reports from other researchers about similar deaths from shells on various beaches along a 200-km coastline.
While the people who flocked to the Pacific Ocean on a rare day soaked up the sun, the shell benches sucked in ̵
Sones estimates that dying will affect the rest of the coastal ecosystem. "Mussels are known as forage. The equivalent is the trees in a forest – they provide protection and habitat to many animals. So if you affect this core habitat, they'll frizz the rest of the system, "Sones said.
"I would really expect this has affected the entire region. You just have to have people out there to document this, "Sones said.
Years of ocean health research focused on rising water temperatures and the effects of acidification on marine life. Seaweed and coral suffer in warmer waters, starfish melt and shellfish break off.
However, less data are available on the effects of this type of one-off extreme weather events in open coastal air. Northeastern University Marine Ecologist Brian Helmuth designed a robotic shell to measure and record the temperatures the animal would experience.
BayNature. "This is how you prepare for it."
The biologist of the University of British Columbia, Christopher Harley, documented a mussel cook at Bodega Head in 2004, but he and Sones believe it was probably larger.
The events are definitely becoming more common and more serious, "Harley quoted the waning shells along the west coast as far as British Columbia. "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."