Dr. Chris Harley photo

Comox Valley Nature webinar to discuss effect of climate change on marine life

Nov 18, 2021 | Environment, News

By George Le Masurier
A trifecta of extreme weather events took turns battering British Columbia this year: wildfires, floods and a summer heatwave that killed off billions of sea life.

A leading expert at the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries and the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia will discuss the effects of climate change in an online lecture for Comox Valley Nature this Sunday.

Dr. Chris Harley will present “Well that stunk: mass die-offs of BC seashore life during the 2021 heatwave” in a live webinar from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm this Sunday, Nov. 21.

In late June, western North America experienced an unprecedented heatwave. A new Canadian all-time high-temperature record was set and hundreds of people died.

Along the coast of BC, the high temperatures coincided with very low tides, and that combination was lethal for billions of barnacles, mussels, sea stars, and other sea creatures that live in the intertidal zone. Such intense heat waves, once a 1-in-1000 year occurrence, are expected to become more common and more severe due to climate change.

Harley’s lecture will provide an overview of how climate change has already impacted seashore life in British Columbia. He will then describe the impacts of the 2021 heatwave – it’s geographic extent, the species affected, and the ongoing ecological implications for the northern Strait of Georgia and beyond.

Harley has been studying coastal marine ecosystems along the west coast and around the world for over 25 years. He and his students at UBC are interested in how marine ecosystems are changing and why. They study the ecological impacts of gradual warming, sudden heat waves, ocean acidification, and changes in salinity.

They are especially interested in how biodiversity is changing as a result, and how certain key species can speed up or slow down ecological change driven by human activities.

Comox Valley Nature is a non-profit society affiliated with BC Nature, consisting only of unpaid volunteers. Founded in 1966, it is one of the oldest environmental societies on the North Island. You can register for the webinar here.


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