The Changeable Rocky Intertidal: 2013 v. 2018

The last five years have been a period of extremes for Pacific Northwest rocky intertidal ecosystems. We’ve all heard about sea star wasting syndrome, and persistent warm sea temperatures known as the blob. These unusual events are extreme enough that it’s reasonable to be curious about whether we might see changes in our familiar rocky…

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A Peek at Pisaster After Two Years of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome

It’s a good time to check in on the rocky intertidal. All along the west coast sea star wasting syndrome has, to varying degrees, reduced Pisaster ochraceus, a potent predator and organizing force in rocky intertidal communities. Generations of intertidal ecologists, students, fisherpeople and other harvesters, tide poolers, and beachcombers have grown to count on…

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California Beach Hopper, Megalorchestia californiana

I took this photo on my way to the beach at 5:30 am on June 22, 2013.  Low tide would occur about 30 minutes later, at 6:06 am.  The tide forecast was -2.3′ below mean lower low water.  On this part of the coast you’ll almost never see a lower low tide, so this was…

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Seaweeds in the Sand

Below are some images of seaweeds I found exposed on the sand during a recent low tide. Each of these seaweeds, two kelps and two reds, are most at home in the low intertidal and shallow subtidal zones. I described the low intertidal zone, where I took these photos, in Finding Yourself in the Infralittoral…

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Flustrellidra corniculata, a Bryozoan

At very low tides beachcombers sometime run across Flustrellidra corniculata, the branched-spine or spiny leather bryozoan.   They occur in the low intertidal and below, down to about 75 meters, which is 250 feet deep.  In the intertidal zone they are members of the Laminaria community I described in Finding Yourself in the Infralittoral Fringe.…

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Sunflower Star, Pycnopodia helianthoides

Sunflower stars are attractive sea stars that are most at home in the subtidal zone and deeper. You will sometimes encounter them on the beaches if there are rocks around and the tide is especially low. I discovered these in and around low tide pools on July 23, when low tide stooped to the lowest,…

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Sea Stars and Sand Dollars

The low tides, especially those below mean lower low water (0.0′), afford an opportunity to observe Pisaster ochraceus, wherever rocky outcrops jut from the sand. On the exposed coast, P. ochraceus need to stay attached to rocks. They are slow-movers but they get around, maneuvering up and down on their rock as the tides rise and fall. I…

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