Extreme heat wave baked sea creatures in their shells in western Canada
“I could smell this beach before I got there because there were already a lot of animals that had died from the day before, which wasn’t the hottest of the three,” he said. “I started to peek at my local beach and I was like, ‘Oh, that can’t be good.'”
The next day, Harley and one of his students drove to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, which he has been visiting for over 12 years.
“It was a disaster there,” he said. “There is a very extensive mussel bed covering the shore and most of these animals are dead.”
The mussels attach themselves to rocks and other surfaces and are used to being exposed to air and sun at low tide, Harley said, but they usually can’t survive for long in temperatures above 100 degrees. .
Temperatures in downtown Vancouver were 98.6 degrees on June 26, 99.5 on the 27 and 101.5 on the 28.
It was even hotter on the beach.
Harley and her student used a FLIR thermal imager which found surface temperatures exceeding 125 degrees.
At this time of year, low tide hits at the hottest time of the day in the area, so animals can’t get out until the tide returns, he said. he declares.
“We saw some heat records over the weekend to be broken again the next day,” Kristina Dahl, senior climatologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN, “especially for part of the country where this kind of heat does happen very often. “
It was also incredibly dangerous.
A billion animals may have died
He said 50 to 100 mussels could live in an area the size of the palm of your hand, and several thousand could fit in an area the size of a stove.
“There are some 4,000 miles of shoreline in the Salish Sea, so when you start to go from what we see locally to what we expect, based on what we know where the mussels live, you get very big numbers really fast, “he said.” Then you start adding all the other species, some of which are even more abundant. “
“When you see schools of mussels disappearing, these are the main structuring species, so almost like trees in the forest that provide habitat for other species, so it’s really obvious when a school of mussels disappears”, he declared. “When we start to see other smaller animals die, because they move around, because they’re not that dense, it’s not that obvious.”
He said the death of a bed of mussels can cause “a cascading effect” on other species.
The two scientists said they fear these heat waves will become more frequent and they are unsure whether the mussel beds could recover.
“What worries me is if you start having heat waves like this, every 10 years instead of every 1,000 years or every five years, then that’s – you’re too hard hit, too fast to really recover, ”said Harley. “And then the ecosystem is just going to look very, very different.”