Mass oyster die-off in San Francisco related to atmospheric rivers | 12/13/2016 | Staff
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Atmospheric rivers contributed to a mass die-off of wild Olympia oysters in north San Francisco Bay in 2011, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis and the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, or NERR.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to document biological impacts of atmospheric rivers, which are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity under future climate change.

Way - Events - Ecosystems - Author - Brian

"This shows us one way in which extreme events might affect coastal ecosystems," said lead author Brian Cheng, a UC Davis doctoral candidate and NERR graduate research fellow at the time of the study. "Oysters can help buffer shorelines and enhance biodiversity, but this is one facet of climate change that might be a hurdle for oyster restoration efforts in San Francisco Bay."

Atmospheric rivers, or "rivers in the sky," are technically long, narrow corridors of concentrated moisture that travel the lower atmosphere. They can transport in the air seven to 15 times as much water flow as the Mississippi River. In California, atmospheric rivers have been known to deliver up to half of the state's annual precipitation in just 10 to 15 days. They have also been linked to all seven declared floods on California's Russian River between 1996 and 2007.

Rivers - Nature - Researchers - Data - Events

While atmospheric rivers are expected to increase, their unpredictable nature makes it difficult for researchers to collect ecological data before and after such extreme events.

For this research team, it was a matter of being ready for these extreme events.

Cheng - PhD - UC - Davis - Bodega

When Cheng was working on his Ph.D. at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, he and his colleagues experimented with how oysters respond to changes in temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen. They learned that oysters have a specific threshold for low salinity.

In March 2011, their efforts paid off. A...
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