Killer storms: North Atlantic hurricanes and disease outbreaks in sea urchins

Scheibling, Robert E., and Jean-S├ębastien Lauzon-Guay

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(6), 2010, 2331-2338 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.6.2331

ABSTRACT: An increase in the incidence of disease in various marine organisms over the past few decades has been linked to ocean climate change. In Nova Scotia, Canada, mass mortalities of sea urchins, due to an amoebic disease, are associated with tropical cyclones of relatively high intensity that pass close to the coast when water temperature is above a threshold for disease propagation. These conditions increase the likelihood of introduction and spread of a nonindigenous water-borne pathogen through turbulent mixing. Our analysis shows that the most deadly storms, in terms of the probability of a sea urchin mass mortality, have become more deadly over the past 30 years. We also found that storms have been tracking closer to the coast and that surface temperature has increased during the hurricane season. These trends are likely to continue with climate warming, resulting in a regional shift to a kelp bed ecosystem and the loss of the urchin fishery.

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