Experts have warned that over a billion marine animals on the Pacific Coast of Canada have possibly died because of the previous week’s record Canada heatwave. This has highlighted how vulnerable ecosystems are that are not suited for extreme temperatures.
Coastal temperatures had been pushed to as much as 40C or 104F due to the “heat dome” formed over the US North-West and west Canada. As such, longstanding records were shattered without any respite for several days.
Nearly 500 people are thought to have been killed by the unrelenting and intense heat, only in Canada’s province of British Columbia. Moreover, it started wildfires, numbering in the hundreds, which are still devastating the province. However, experts fear that marine life had also been devastated by it.
Unimaginable Loss Of Marine Animals
British Columbia University Marine Biologist Christopher Harley’s calculations put the number of marine animals killed at almost one billion. He said that the devastation’s magnitude could be seen if one takes a walk on the beach in Vancouver.
He explained that usually there is no crunch when ones walks on the shore. But now there are far too many mussel shells, empty and dead, that are scattered everywhere. One can hardly avoid the dead marine animals while walking.
Harley had noticed the smell being given off by rotting mussels. A large number of them were cooked in unusually warm water. Clams, snails, and sea stars were decomposing in shallower waters. He said that the experience was visceral and overpowering.
Among shellfish, Mussels are quite hardy. They can withstand temperatures of the higher 30s. Meanwhile, barnacles can survive the middle of the 40s, for some hours at least. Harley added that temperatures above that become “unsurvivable” for marine animals.
The shellfish’s mass death will have a temporary effect on the quality of the water. Harley explained that clams and mussels help in filtering the sea. They keep the water clear enough for sunlight to reach the beds of eelgrass, enriching other marine animal species’ habitats.
Mussels, fortunately, can regenerate in about two years. But some clams and starfish have decades-long lifespans, with much slower reproduction rates. So they will recover much slower. There have also been reports of dead oysters, rockfish, and sea anemones.
Experts have warned that these sustaining and sudden heatwaves are a new reality. They will only become commoner due to climate change.