Massive death wave of sea birds was caused by a marine heat wave

A marine heat wave called The Warm Blob parked itself over the North Pacific Ocean in 2014-15, and has now been determined to be responsible for an unusually large mass mortality of Cassin’s Auklets. Volunteers involved in three citizen science projects (COASST, BeachWatch, BeachCOMBERS) scour beaches from California to British Columbia, and reported thousands of dead Cassin’s Auklets at the same time that the Blob was present. A new collaborative study examined a range of possible hypotheses for the mass death, finding that the best explanation was a shift in the marine food available for the auklets, resulting in death by starvation. The work, by SAFS researchers Timothy Jones, Hillary Burgess and Jane Dolliver, SAFS professor Julia Parrish, and a broad array of coauthors, appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Beach carcasses of Cassin’s Auklets encountered during 2014-15 at the height of the Warm Blob over the North Pacific Ocean, showing the large increase in dead birds encountered during citizen surveys of these beaches.
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