Dec 14, 2016

Atmospheric rivers and the mass mortality of wild oysters: insight into an extreme future?

Brian S. Cheng, Andrew L. Chang, Anna Deck, Matthew C. Ferner
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
  • States that climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and severity of extreme events
  • Investigates the biological impacts of one key feature for delivering precipitation extremes, atmospheric rivers (AR)
  • Uses biological data coupled with remotely sensed and in situ environmental data to describe the role of ARs in the near 100% mass mortality of wild oysters in northern San Francisco Bay
  • States that in March 2011, a series of ARs made landfall within California, contributing an estimated 69.3% of the precipitation within the watershed and driving an extreme freshwater discharge into San Francisco Bay
  • States this discharge caused sustained low salinities (less than 6.3) that almost perfectly matched the known oyster critical salinity tolerance and was coincident with a mass mortality of one of the most abundant populations throughout this species' range
  • Highlights a novel mechanism by which precipitation extremes may affect natural systems and the persistence of sensitive species in the face of environmental change