Environment

Warming Oceans Threaten Starfish

According to Rebecca Vega Thurber, an associate professor of environmental microbiology at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the study, “What’s really exciting about this paper is the really strong correspondence between this temperature anomaly that occurred during that year when the sea stars started dying.”

Everywhere the warming went, the sunflower stars sickened and died.

The study showed a correlation between warming temperatures and the spread of the disease, not a direct cause. But it corroborates a hypothesis that was initially questioned because the virus that researchers think is responsible also shows up in healthy sea stars.

A Shocking 40% Increase in Ocean Warming

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.