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Sea stars provide insight into climate change

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Sea stars located along the rocky shores of California are providing insight into the effects of climate change on certain marine ecosystems. Researcher Eric Sanford of the University of California, Davis, is studying how changing air and ocean temperatures are affecting the ochre sea star, which feeds on mussels that form beds along the coast and provide habitat for a variety of species.

Sanford:         So, through its effects on these mussels, this sea star can play a keystone role because it can change the way the whole rocky coast system looks and how it functions through its predation on these mussels. So, we're interested in how warming temperatures associated with climate change might affect the interaction between the sea star and mussels that it feeds on.

Narrator:       At the Bodega Bay Marine Lab, Sanford found that the sea star and mussel interaction is very sensitive to small changes in temperature.

Sanford:         Just a few degrees of warming could stress the sea stars out, they eat fewer mussels and because of the important role that these mussels play in the community, it could really change the way this whole community functions.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.