Shellfish in danger after unprecedented Pacific Northwest heatwave

by Michelle Ma, University of Washington
September 02, 2022

It’s hard to forget the excruciating heat that blanketed the Pacific Northwest in late June 2021. Temperatures soared well above 100 degrees, with Seattle hitting a record 108 degrees on June 28.

During the heat wave, research scientists, tribal ecologists and community members noticed a disturbing uptick of dying and dead shellfish on beaches in Washington and British Columbia. Quickly realizing this was an unprecedented event, the groups organized to document the die-offs as they were happening.

Now, a team led by the UW has compiled and analyzed hundreds of the field observations to produce the first comprehensive report of the impact of the 2021 heat wave on shellfish. It found that many shellfish were victims of a “perfect storm” of factors: The lowest low tides of the year occurred during the hottest days—and at the warmest times of day. The results were recently published in the journal Ecology.

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Read the Ecology paper: