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Oyster deaths linked to ‘atmospheric rivers’

California storms diluted salt to deadly levels, researcher suggests

By
7:05pm, December 13, 2016
oysters

SALT-FREE SHELLFISH  Oysters (shown here) form reefs in bays and estuaries. Strong storms that struck California in 2011 nearly killed off a population of oysters in the San Francisco Bay — probably by diluting the salt water.

Narrow channels of moisture snaking through the atmosphere can bring storms that wreck beachfront bungalows — and leave oyster beds bare. Several of these channels, called atmospheric rivers (SN: 2/26/11, p. 20), dumped particularly heavy storms on California in early 2011. The resulting freshwater influx probably left part of the San Francisco Bay without enough salt for oysters to survive, researchers report online December 14 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Oysters worldwide have been struggling in recent years because of climate change, ocean acidification and overharvesting. Their disappearance hurts the coastal ecosystems they inhabit.

“Oysters build habitat on the coast for other species. They’re kind of like a coral reef in that regard,” says study

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