Pacific Northwest
Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman / Courtesy of Oregon State University

OR - Climate change degrading Oregon coastal ecosystems, study suggests

Researchers find ecological communities in the intertidal zone are becoming less resilient to disturbances like marine heatwaves and disease.

Climate change is weakening communities of colorful creatures in the rocky intertidal zone on the Oregon Coast.

Many Oregonians learn about these ecosystems on tidepooling trips to the beach. New research from Oregon State University suggests that the intricate and visually stunning communities of sea stars, anemones, mussels and more are struggling to recover after disturbances to their environment.

The researchers say that as major disruptive events like marine heatwaves or disease epidemics become more frequent with climate change, these ecosystems could eventually reach a “tipping point” where species start to disappear entirely from Oregon’s intertidal zone.

“What we’re taking this as is an early warning sign that things might be changing,” said Sarah Gravem, a research associate at OSU.

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