West Coast
Kris Bauer

WA - Tiny specks bring big hope that ocean is improving after the devastating ‘Blob’

Some are iridescent, shimmering blue as sapphires in the sea. Others have a space alien visage, rivaling anything Hollywood could come up with. Some sprout spines. Others glow at night with bioluminescence.

Some are iridescent, shimmering blue as sapphires in the sea. Others have a space alien visage, rivaling anything Hollywood could come up with. Some sprout spines. Others glow at night with bioluminescence.

Plankton — from the Greek word meaning drifter — are the base of the marine food chain. And for the first time since a devastating marine heat wave that peaked through 2014 and 2015, researchers see in the abundance, condition and diversity of plankton recently sampled off the West Coast signs of a change for the better in ocean conditions.

While it’s early days for data that is still being analyzed, Jennifer Fisher, a plankton ecologist with Oregon State University, reported seeing an abundance of plankton associated with cold water upwelling, and good fat levels and size in zooplankton, the tiny animals that feed the food web.

“We are seeing a high biomass of copepods and they also are big,” Fisher said by phone on a shore break during an ocean survey.

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