Climate change has become the ticking time bomb of the world, gradually affecting the environment in a myriad of different ways and slowly becoming more and more of a problem. There are few things that are safe from the grip it has on the world, for it comes in many different forms and affects all ecosystems. It has slowly changed the way ecosystems function and the way wildlife can be supported in different systems.
The Oregon coast has always been well known for it’s moderately acidic waters, which occur due to the surrounding currents bringing acidity from deep in the ocean up to the surface and into the tide pools, the shallow water where a lot of Oregon’s marine life thrives. The acidification of the water primarily occurs when the water is warmer in the spring and summer, which is when these particular currents become more active in shifting the water. This gradual acidification has never been much of a problem in the past because the acid levels have always stayed relatively low, but climate change has caused the levels to skyrocket.
Researchers began to notice the negative effects of the increase in acidity in shellfish residing in these tide pools. This acidity made it such that shellfish were unable to capture necessary minerals in the water, which allow them to build their shells to be strong and thick, serving as a form of protection from other animals in the ecosystem. The result of the lack of mineral consumption has led to many shellfish developing thinner shells or no shells at all. Loss of shells rendered lower growth and survival rates for younger and weaker specimens.
The increase of acidity also affects the eco-skeletons of plankton, severely damaging their reproductive process. This lowers growth and survival rates of the species as a whole. Plankton are at the bottom of a very complex food web that has developed along the Oregon coast for thousands of years, so the loss of plankton would create a chain reaction of damage throughout the entire system.
Another well-known issue the Oregon coast faces due to climate change is the presence of rising ocean temperatures. While beach-goers may find the warm waters more welcoming, it poses a very deep threat to the marine life. Rising water temperature opens up the possibility of a toxic algae bloom, also known as a “Red Tide.” The name Red Tide comes from the stark red tint of the toxic algae. The algae causes shellfish poisoning and often closes beaches and shellfish beds, such as tide pools, to the public. Warm waters also attract marine life predators that belong in other ecosystems, which would interrupt the food chain of the Oregon coast dwellers.
The introduction of rising water levels also poses a very deep threat to the marine life and the surrounding coastal developments, causing erosion to coastal cliffs and making many of the tide pools, marshes, and wetlands uninhabitable to wildlife. Beaches may also close due to the water levels encroaching on the beach, pushing the water towards the surrounding structures and causing a safety hazard.
Climate change has been wreaking havoc on Oregon’s coast for decades and its negative effects are becoming more and more threatening to the coastal ecosystems. With no real end in sight, climate change will continue to develop and continue affecting the coast in many of these detrimental ways.