Warm ocean ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Warm ocean ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

A new report suggests a warm “blob” of water could be behind the mass starvation of a North Pacific seabird.

According to a report published in the science journal PLOS ONE, about 62,000 dead or dying common murres washed ashore between California and Alaska between summer 2015 and spring 2016. Carcass recovery brings the death estimate up to around one million in total.

On Jan. 1 and 2, 2016, 6,540 common murre carcasses were found washed ashore near Whitter, Alaska, translating into about 8,000 bodies per mile of shoreline – one of the highest beaching rates recorded during the mass mortality event. (Photo by David B. Irons)

The report says there’s nothing to suggest the emaciated birds died from anything other than starvation.

Additionally, no murre chicks were born at breeding colonies between 2015 and 2017.

READ ALSO: Climate change threatens extinction for most birds, especially in Canada: report

Researchers linked the deaths to a “large mass of unusually warm seawater” known as the “Blob” and the strong El Niño that followed, creating a “severe marine heatwave” stretching from California to Alaska between 2014 and 2016.

In a statement, authors said the mass deaths “raise a red-flag warning about the state of marine ecosystems on the continental shelf of western North America.”

The study links to previous research suggesting that warmer marine temperatures reduce both the quantity and quality of phytoplankton – reducing the health and numbers of fish who eat them and increasing the metabolic needs of larger fish that compete with murres for food.

Researchers hypothesize that the warm water ultimately led to the birds’ mass starvation and lack of reproduction.

The murre die-off revealed a major disruption in marine food webs, with alarming declines not only in murres, but in other seabirds, commercial fish and great whales between 2016 and 2019.

Researchers say they are only beginning to understand “the mechanisms and full magnitude of effects of the 2014-16 heatwave, and what it portends if such heatwaves become stronger and more frequent, as predicted.”

READ ALSO: Three billion fewer birds in North America than in 1970, study finds



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Warm ocean ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Just Posted

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ district administration centre. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district gets started on new budget amid unknowns

Ministry’s per-student funding increase doesn’t fully cover pay raises for teachers and support staff

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo school district reports COVID-19 case at Fairview Elementary

April 9 exposure the fourth case reported in SD68 since spring break

The old career resource centre, formerly Quennell School, was demolished last week. (Photo courtesy Erik Warners)
Old career centre and school demolished in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter

School district says building was decaying and was unsuitable for use

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s two new pumper trucks, slated to be delivered in the fall, will have battery-powered idle-reduction technology. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s newest fire trucks will come with idle-reduction technology

Pumper trucks arriving from U.S.-based manufacturer will use battery power to save fuel

A raccoon prowls near a porch in north Nanaimo last fall. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Attack on dog shows raccoons can be nasty creatures

We had to take our black lab to the emergency vet for treatment, says letter writer

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Immunization program expands to five Nanaimo pharmacies

Residents 55-65-year-old can get their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Firefighters, including those from Cranberry volunteer department, are battling a blaze in the Nanaimo River Road area. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Dwelling destroyed, two taken to hospital after Nanaimo River Road blaze

Firefighers arrived to find dwelling and garage fully engulfed in flame at property south of Nanaimo

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Most Read