Conservation

Critically endangered sea star not recovering in the wild, scientists point to the need for restoration efforts

New research documenting the population crash of the iconic sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), and complete absence of population recovery since the 2013 outbreak of the marine wildlife epidemic sea star wasting disease, was published today in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study calls for new strategies for protecting species impacted by increasingly frequent marine epidemics associated with changing ocean conditions.

Survivors of Climate Driven Abalone Mass Mortality Exhibit Declines in Health and Reproduction Following Kelp Forest Collapse

Marine ecosystems are vulnerable to climate driven events such as marine heatwaves yet we have a poor understanding of whether they will collapse or recover. Kelp forests are known to be susceptible, and there has been a rise in sea urchin barrens around the world. When temperatures increase so do physiological demands while food resources decline, tightening metabolic constraints. In this case study, we examine red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) looking at sublethal impacts and their prospects for recovery within kelp forests that have shifted to sea urchin barrens.

Springtime White Abalone Spawning at Bodega Marine Lab

A Brief History of White Abalone

Once abundant, white abalone were critically overfished in the 1970s. With the remaining wild white abalone so far apart from one another that they were unable to reproduce successfully, experts determined that captive breeding and outplanting were the best ways to save the species. After early breeding efforts were hampered by disease, the program headquarters moved to UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in 2011.

Kelp: California's Coastal Forests

Kelp: California's Coastal Forests

Written by Jane Park

Using science to inform the restoration of California’s underwater forests

Kelp forests are underwater forests that support some of the world’s most productive fisheries and unique ecosystems.  Kelp forests occur throughout the world.  California’s kelp forests are particularly unique, as our “redwood forests of the sea” are among the tallest and most productive of the world: Northern California’s “bull kelp” grow an average of 4 in./day and can reach heights over 100 ft. 

Saving White Abalone with UC Davis Project Scientist Kristin Aquilino

UC Davis project scientist Kristin Aquilino directs the Bodega Marine Laboratory's white abalone captive breeding program. In this video, she discusses the work she and her colleagues are doing to bring the endangered species back from the brink of extinction. This week marks the first time captive bred white abalone will be released to the ocean in hopes of saving the species.

An Undersea Forest In Decline

Envision California’s lush forests from San Francisco to the Oregon border. Now imagine that 90 percent of those forests disappear within two years. Laura Rogers-Bennett, senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that’s exactly what happened to underwater kelp forests off Northern California’s coastline from 2014-16.

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