Wednesday, July 13, 2005

vanishing plankton

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that oceanic plankton have largely disappeared off the San Francisco coast, Oregon, and parts of Canada, due to the lack of the usual cold upwelling. The effect is rippling through the food web.

The larger fish and baleen whales eat mostly krill: free-floating, shrimp- like crustaceans ranging from one to two inches, the upper size limit of the zooplankton realm.
. . .
In perhaps the most ominous development, seabird nesting has dropped significantly on the Farallon Islands off San Francisco, the largest Pacific Coast seabird rookery south of Alaska.
. . .
Peterson said a major die-off of double-crested cormorants recently occurred in Oregon, and juvenile salmon numbers have dropped precipitously. Both events, he said, are likely due to the warm water.
Related to global warming? Possibly so:
A recent study indicated the phenomenon may be long term, and linked to global warming.

Last week, Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- the federal agency dealing with Canada's marine and inland waters -- released a report saying 2004's spring and summer ocean surface temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and off British Columbia were the warmest in 50 years.

The study concluded the record high temperatures were caused by abnormally warm weather in Alaska and western Canada, as well as "general warming of global lands and oceans."
If so, we may owe a big ol' thank-you to Mr. Cooney and his buddies.

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