What is Turning Starfish into Goo?

The answer to this post’s title is that nobody knows. How many of you out there even knew this was happening? I only found out about it yesterday from this article titled, “Freakish disease is turning starfish into goo“. 

Good Starfish:

In perfect health: A healthy sunflower starfish cruises across the bottom of waters off British Columbia. Photo: Neil McDaniel

Bad Starfish:

Death is days away: A sick sunflower starfish exhibits the characteristic emaciated appearance and lesions in the body wall of the illness. Photo: Neil McDaniel

The article states, “Starfish off North America’s eastern and western coasts are dying in large numbers and in the most undignified ways. Their colourful limbs are curling up at the tips. Squiggly arms are detaching from dying bodies like tails from lizards and wiggling until they also drop dead. Ulcers are opening holes in tissue, allowing internal organs to ooze out…All along the Pacific coast, starfish are experiencing their largest known die-off, which is affecting more species of sea stars than any other attack in recent memory, biologists said. A smaller and isolated Atlantic outbreak, at points off Rhode Island and Maine, has also been noted…have been killed by disease several times over the past few decades. But each of those events affected only a single species, marine scientists said, not up to seven, as the new plague has. Divers have previously reported mass sea star deaths in warmer waters south of Santa Barbara in southern California, but not in waters as cool as those of Washington state’s Puget Sound.”

Here’ another article that tells about this Starfish issue and did you know about the sardines? You can read about sardines in this Grist article titled, “Sardines have nearly disappeared off West Coast.”

So much for the state of our oceans.








Ocean Acidification Report

As a follow up to my post on the State of the Oceans 2013, I provide you with this new published report on Ocean Acidification. I first learned about this report when I found this BBC article. You are of course probably hearing about it here for the first time. That last sentence is just a smart remark about our current state of our media.

As the levels of carbon in the air continues to go up the oceans are getting more acidic.

Observations of CO2 (parts per million) in the atmosphere and pH of surface seawater from Mauna Loa and Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) Station Aloha, Hawaii, North Pacific.

Credit: Adapted from Richard Feely (NOAA), Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends) and Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (scrippsco2.ucsd.edu)

                                                     THE SUMMERY OF OUTCOMES

The ocean continues to acidify at an unprecedented rate in Earth’s history. Latest research indicates the rate of change may be faster than at any time in the last 300 million years.

As ocean acidity increases, its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere decreases. This decreases the ocean’s role in moderating climate change.

Species-specific impacts of ocean acidification have been seen in laboratory and field studies on organisms from the poles to the tropics. Many organisms show adverse effects, such as reduced ability to form and maintain shells and skeletons, as well as reduced survival, growth, abundance and larval development. Conversely, evidence indicates that some organisms tolerate ocean acidification and that others, such as some seagrasses, may even thrive.

Within decades, large parts of the polar oceans will become corrosive to the unprotected shells of calcareous marine organisms.

Changes in carbonate chemistry of the tropical ocean may hamper or prevent coral reef growth within decades.

The far-reaching effects of ocean acidification are predicted to impact food webs, biodiversity, aquaculture and hence societies.

Species differ in their potential to adapt to new environments. Ocean chemistry may be changing too rapidly for many species or populations to adapt through evolution.

Multiple stressors – ocean acidification, warming, decreases in oceanic oxygen concentrations (deoxygenation), increasing UV-B irradiance due to stratospheric ozone depletion, overfishing, pollution and eutrophication – and their interactions are creating significant challenges for ocean ecosystems.

We do not fully understand the biogeochemical feedbacks to the climate system that may arise from ocean acidification.

Predicting how whole ecosystems will change in response to rising CO2 levels remains challenging. While we know enough to expect changes in marine ecosystems and biodiversity within our lifetimes, we are unable to make reliable, quantitative predictions of socio-economic impacts.

People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services are especially vulnerable and may need to adapt or cope with ocean acidification impacts within decades. Shellfish fisheries and aquaculture in some areas may be able to cope by adjusting their management practices to avoid ocean acidification impacts. Tropical coral reef loss will affect tourism, food security and shoreline protection for many of the world’s poorest people.

You can download the full report from the link above and I hope you do. While it is not a “good” news report it is one of the most beautiful reports I’ve ever read. 

If you link back to my post on the State of the Oceans 2013 (see top of post) you will find several links to articles on ocean acidification that are happening now.

The State of the Ocean 2013

I was just going to do an update on some oceans reports that I’ve found but there’s just too much happening. Just recently The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) released it’s, “State of the Ocean Report 2013“. Has anyone heard anything about it?

  I thought not! What it says is not good. “…concluded that not only are we already experiencing severe declines in many species to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an unparalleled rate of regional extinctions of habitat types (e.g. mangroves and seagrass meadows), but we now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation. Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.”

From the press release: “Among the latest assessments of factors affecting ocean health, the panel identified the following areas as of greatest cause for concern:

  • De-oxygenation: the evidence is accumulating that the oxygen inventory of the ocean is progressively declining. Predictions for ocean oxygen content suggest a decline of between 1% and 7% by 2100. This is occurring in two ways: the broad trend of decreasing oxygen levels in tropical oceans and areas of the North Pacific over the last 50 years; and the dramatic increase in coastal hypoxia (low oxygen) associated with eutrophication. The former is caused by global warming, the second by increased nutrient runoff from agriculture and sewage. Acidification: If current levels of CO2 release continue we can expect extremely serious consequences for ocean life, and in turn food and coastal protection; at CO2 concentrations of 450-500 ppm (projected in 2030-2050) erosion will exceed calcification in the coral reef building process, resulting in the extinction of some species and decline in biodiversity overall. • Warming: As made clear by the IPCC, the ocean is taking the brunt of warming in the climate system, with direct and well-documented physical and biogeochemical consequences. The impacts which continued warming is projected to have in the decades to 2050 include: reduced seasonal ice zones, including the disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice by ca. 2037; increasing stratification of ocean layers, leading to oxygen depletion; increased venting of the GHG methane from the Arctic seabed (a factor not considered by the IPCC); and increased incidence of anoxic and hypoxic (low oxygen) events. • The ‘deadly trio’ of the above three stressors – acidification, warming and deoxygenation – is seriously effecting how productive and efficient the ocean is, as temperatures, chemistry, surface stratification, nutrient and oxygen supply are all implicated, meaning that many organisms will find themselves in unsuitable environments. These impacts will have cascading consequences for marine biology, including altered food web dynamics and the expansion of pathogens. • Continued overfishing is serving to further undermine the resilience of ocean systems, and contrary to some claims, despite some improvements largely in developed regions, fisheries management is still failing to halt the decline of key species and damage to the ecosystems on which marine life depends. In 2012 the UN FAO determined that 70% of world fish populations are unsustainably exploited, of which 30% have biomass collapsed to less than 10% of unfished levels. A recent global assessment of compliance with Article 7 (fishery management) of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, awarded 60% of countries a “fail” grade, and saw no country identified as being overall “good”.”
Another study just recently published in the journal PLOS Biology states, “Our results suggest that the entire world’s ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. Only a very small fraction of the oceans, mostly in polar regions, will face the opposing effects of increases in oxygen or productivity, and almost nowhere will there be cooling or pH increase. …
The social ramifications are also likely to be massive and challenging as some 470 to 870 million people – who can least afford dramatic changes to their livelihoods – live in areas where ocean goods and services could be compromised by substantial changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”
This EDF Blog post is titled, “Five Ways Climate Change is Affecting Our Oceans“. It’s based on the IPCC report.
This story titled, “Key species mysteriously dying off Oregon Coast” shows that things are already happening to the oceans. The picture below is the “key species” Krill.
This story tells about a family of oyster farmers fleeing the west coast of Washington to Hawaii. “Ocean acidification left the Nisbet family no choice. Carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel emissions had turned seawater in Willapa Bay along Washington’s coast so lethal that slippery young Pacific oysters stopped growing. The same corrosive ocean water got sucked into an Oregon hatchery and routinely killed larvae the family bought as oyster seed.”
This article tells us about, “Pacific Ocean acidification jeopardizes marine life”. At the end of the articles it states, “Scientists are seeing changes in their own lifetime that in the past would have taken thousands of years.”
This story starts out with this statement, “For many U.S. fisherman, there’s no debate about climate change. It’s here, and already majorly impacting their industries.” It explains why we need to have an industry based on jellyfish.
Let’s not forget our freshwater lake and streams. This story explains what’s happening to them. “Now, a new report from the National Wildlife Federation puts a magnifying glass on freshwater, climate change, and the most well-known denizens of lakes and waterways – fish.
According to the report released today, increasingly severe droughts, warming winters, and wildfires, are expected to destroy approximately 50 percent of the nation’s coldwater fish habitat by the end of the century.”

“A study published last spring by researchers at UC Davis predicted that climate change would eliminate 82 percent of California’s 121 native freshwater species by the end of the century.”
 And finally this story proves it’s happening now. “Walleye move in to a warming Lake Superior.