climate change

Falling Stars: Once-Abundant Sea Stars Imperiled by Disease Along West Coast

Falling Stars: Once-Abundant Sea Stars Imperiled by Disease Along West Coast

The combination of ocean warming and an infectious wasting disease has devastated populations of large sunflower sea stars once abundant along the West Coast of North America in just a few years, according to a study co-led by the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University published Jan. 30 in the journal Science Advances.

“In California, Washington and parts of British Columbia, sunflower sea stars keep urchins under control,” said Joseph Gaydos, senior author on the paper and director of UC Davis’ SeaDoc Society program. “Without sunflower stars, urchin populations expand and threaten kelp forests and biodiversity. This cascading effect has a really big impact.”