Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .




WATER WORLD
Is climate change killing American starfish?
By Magan CRANE
Forks, United States (AFP) Sept 22, 2015


On the remote rocky shores of the western United States, low tide brings visitors to wave-splashed tide pools to marvel at ocean wonders usually hidden from view.

But recently, largely missing from the bounty are the biggest draw: a rainbow-hued array of starfish.

"I don't know what you would call it other than catastrophic," says Drew Harvell, a biologist at Cornell University, describing what is widely regarded as one of the worst marine disease events ever recorded.

"It's staggering, really, the millions of stars that have died. It is not apocalyptic or extreme to say that."

In recent years, millions of the starfish, also called sea stars, have had their legs curl up and pull away from their bodies, breaking the animals to pieces before they turn to mush, often in a matter of days.

Scientists have been left racing to figure out why.

Once densely packed onto the rocks and on the ocean floor, the key predators are simply missing from some locations, their numbers cut by 95 percent or more.

The phenomenon, called Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, was first noticed by rangers in Olympic National Park in Washington state in 2013.

It has now been documented from California to Alaska, and led to die-off that is bigger and more widely spread than any seen before.

Late last year, a group of researchers published findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences saying they had found strong evidence that a virus was causing the disease.

Researchers now are looking into why the virus is suddenly so much more widespread and deadly. A primary consideration is how warmer water, brought about by climate change, is affecting the stars, the virus and the wider ecosystem.

"There are components that certainly track with temperature," Harvell said. "We think the magnitude in our waters is due to temperature. We know that under warmer conditions, they die faster."

"We've had anomalously warm oceans for the last two years. Really, what we would call hot water. It is really the dominant thing to consider," she said.

- Data collection difficult -

A primary challenge for researchers is simply the massive amount of data needed to get a good understanding of what is happening. The animals are found on thousands and thousands of miles of coastline, and sufficient funding is simply not available to thoroughly count them and consider all the possible variables.

But scientists are nevertheless trying.

They are tracking the numbers of stars in locations over time, gauging the temperature and chemistry of the water, and logging the data as part of ongoing research into the ecosystem. They are even recruiting "citizen scientists" to help search for the stars and record their condition.

Melissa Miner, a researcher with the University of California at Santa Cruz, is one of the people leading the data collection, but said the widespread nature of the outbreak adds to the challenge.

"It is pretty difficult to collect the data we need on a big scale," she said. "I really want to stress that it isn't understood at all what it is causing this disease."

Harvell agreed that money for the extensive research is scarce. It doesn't help that the starfish are not an animal humans eat, and thus there is no industry raising the alarm about their decline.

"Out of sight, out of mind," she said. "We need to be concerned about the health of our oceans. We could be so much farther ahead if there had been enough money available."

Congressman Denny Heck, whose district in Washington state includes much of the inland waters where starfish have been dying off in huge numbers, is trying to help by establishing a framework for declaring a marine disease emergency. Such a declaration would come with money for research and possible recovery.

"When disease like this breaks out underwater, we have no established process to stop it," Heck told AFP.

He has found allies on both coasts, as well as among his fellow Democrats and Republicans, as a disease outbreak could hit fisheries and devastate a local economy.

"We are encouraged by the response we've gotten from people across the country that care about a clean and sustainable marine environment," he said.

For her part, Miner is hopeful that the colorful sea stars have a high enough profile to draw attention to their demise.

"They are as charismatic as you can be as an intertidal species," she said. "They are what connects people to ocean. The sea star is kind of the mascot of the intertidal."


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





WATER WORLD
Griffith Researchers show ocean response to Red Dawn
Nathan, Australia (SPX) Sep 18, 2015
The 'Red Dawn' dust storm which enveloped Sydney in 2009 left more than just a huge clean-up bill in its wake. Griffith researchers have shown for the first time that the Tasman Sea marine ecosystem was also affected by the intense dust storm. By analysing satellite imagery of the ocean and dust transport model simulations, Associate Professor Albert Gabric and a group of researchers at ... read more


WATER WORLD
Nepal quake survivors turn porters to deliver aid

Hungarian army given sweeping powers against migrants

Over 190 hurt when fire drill goes wrong in China

Iraqis buy life jackets for trip to Europe's distant shores

WATER WORLD
'Lab-on-a-Chip' to cut costs of sophisticated tests for diseases and disorders

Physicists defy conventional wisdom to identify ferroelectric material

Engineers unlock remarkable 3-D vision from ordinary digital camera technology

Making 3-D objects disappear

WATER WORLD
Taiwan boat caught with huge illegal shark fin haul

Omega-3's are vital for a healthy ocean

Acidic ocean will bend the mermaid's wineglass

The saying 'It never rains but it pours' is truer than ever in Scotland

WATER WORLD
Melting Arctic sea ice accelerates methane emissions

Adaptation to high-fat diet, cold had profound effect on Inuit, including shorter height

Arctic sea ice summertime minimum is fourth lowest on record

Solving the problem of sea ice thickness distribution using molecular concepts

WATER WORLD
Fearless fowl grow and lay better

Activist against palm oil shot dead in Guatemala

Land degradation costs trillions of dollars

Hunter-gatherers were enjoying oatmeal 30,000 years ago

WATER WORLD
At least 10 killed in Iran flash flooding: state TV

Several dead as severe floods hit Sierra Leone capital

Lessons from 2010 quake saved lives in Chile: experts

Tropical storm Ida gains strength in the Atlantic: forecasters

WATER WORLD
Burkina Faso army chiefs, France order coup leaders to disarm

Dealing with climate change and local beliefs in Africa

Burkina on the brink amid coup led by ex-dictator's ally

Shots fired as Burkina Faso guards seize president, PM

WATER WORLD
Scientists report earlier date of shift in human ancestors' diet

Fossil trove adds a new limb to human family tree

Bonobos use finger-pointing, hand gestures to communicate

Ancient human shoulders reveal links to ape ancestors




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.