The extreme heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest in July wasn’t just brutal on us it also killed an estimated billion coastal marine animals. It’s hard to grasp the extent of the mass die-off of mussels, oysters, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and many other species.
The ‘heat dome’ brought unprecedented high temperatures during some of the lowest tides of the year, exposing animals living along the shore to hours of sun and heat. What did those shores filled with dead animals mean for that ecosystem? All of the ecosystem services – like filtering of seawater, providing food for other species, including humans, and habitat for other species – disappeared.
Most intertidal animals are resilient and will likely recover. However, the climate crisis we’re in now means extreme weather will become more frequent and intense around the globe, making it harder for recovery. How extreme these kinds of events become is up to us. The time to act is NOW.