Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America, Roles The etiology of SSW is unresolved. The degree of population decline was unrelated to pre-outbreak P. ochraceus density, although these factors have been linked in other well-documented disease events. Harley et al. Recruitment and survivorship to reproductive size are important components of population recovery estimates, but are often not well documented for species that are not commercially harvested. Investigation, Discover a faster, simpler path to publishing in a high-quality journal. Fig 3. "Sea Star Wasting Disease has caused the largest epidemic in marine wildlife history"-Dr. Drew Harvell, Marine Ecologist, Cornell University and author, Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease THE SEA STARS ARE MELTING by Mary Kay Neumann Sunflower sea stars (commonly called starfish) are dying off by the millions on the Pacific Coast from Sea Star Wasting Disease. Low rates of transition between juvenile size classes in the post-onset SSWD period suggest that the disease might have negatively impacted juvenile survivorship. This SSWD epidemic is a perfect example of an ‘ecological surprise’ [44] that underscores the need for long-term ecological and environmental studies (LTEES). We greatly appreciate comments from two anonymous reviewers that strengthened the manuscript. Although “wasting disease” had been documented in P. ochraceus before 2013, the etiology of those outbreaks is not known [23,24,36] and may well have varied among locations and outbreak events [23]. Regional maps of study sites: Panel A in S1 Fig) Alaska sites, Panel B in S1 Fig) British Columbia sites, Panel C in S1 Fig) Washington sites, Panel D in S1 Fig) Oregon sites, Panel E in S1 Fig) Northern California sites, Panel F in S1 Fig) Central California sites, Panel G in S1 Fig) Southern California mainland sites, Panel H in S1 Fig) Southern California Channel Island Sites. P. ochraceus were counted, measured, and (beginning in 2013) assigned to disease categories annually or semiannually at 90 long-term monitoring (LTM) sites in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. SeaDoc was among dozens of collaborators that recently published a paper linking a virus to sea star wasting disease. CBS surveys were conducted at approximately 3–5 year intervals; at sites where multiple surveys had been done prior to 2013, the mean pre-SSWD density was used. Both have been linked to the emergence and severity of prior disease events in marine systems (reviewed in [2,4]) and are widely considered to be important in the development of predictive models [1,2,4,27–29]. 2019 Nov 21;14(11):e0225248. This is not the first documented disease outbreak in asteroids on the North American Pacific coast; since the 1970s, outbreaks of (uncharacterized) diseases have been documented in southern California [21], the Gulf of California [22], and British Columbia [23]. Visualization, The latest confirmed victim of rising temperature is starfish. [27] that the relationships between water temperature and SSWD onset and impact are complex and still largely undetermined. The annual relative population size was calculated by dividing the total number of adult P. ochraceus (>30 mm radius) counted within long-term permanent plots for a given year (or mean count in years with >1 survey year-1) by the long-term annual mean number of stars counted at a given site through 2013. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.g003. The incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate the entire population of purple ochre sea stars.Prior to this, Oregon had been the only part of the West coast that had been largely spared this devastating disease. No, Is the Subject Area "Marine monitoring" applicable to this article? Work at other California sites (including Marine Protected Areas) was authorized by California DFW permits SC-4055, SC-3124, SC-8187, SC-10589, and SC-003922. For example, in 1997 diseased individuals were reported only as far south as Punta Banda, Baja California and as far north as Punto Estero California, spanning approximately 4 degrees of latitude [24]. However, our data indicate that the role of temperature in the initiation or intensification of the SSWD outbreak is still unclear. Within the northern California region, for example, Damnation Creek, False Klamath Cove, and Bodega were among the most densely populated sites, but P. ochraceus decline at the less densely populated Alcatraz site was much more severe (Fig 2). Because these early symptoms are similar to those resulting from other sources of stress in sea stars, such as desiccation or injury from predators (authors’ pers. Because we do not have these data, it is difficult to know if body temperatures at low tide played a role in the SSWD outbreak. Horizontal lines where ratio = 1 were included to illustrate deviations from long-term mean. To determine whether sites with higher densities of sea stars were more likely to experience population decline due to SSWD, and whether a potential relationship differed among regions, we ran an ANCOVA analysis assessing the severity of decline (# of stars counted in 2015 in LTM plots / long-term mean # of stars counted in LTM plots pre-SSWD) as a function of P. ochraceus density (from CBS swath data), region, and the interaction between density and region. These piers are located in protected sandy areas, which can have elevated temperatures as compared to rocky shores (Raimondi per. and Washington coasts. Sea Star Wasting Disease On the west coast of North America scientists have observed a great number of sea stars dying from a mysterious disease known as the sea star wasting disease. Citation: Miner CM, Burnaford JL, Ambrose RF, Antrim L, Bohlmann H, Blanchette CA, et al. The research, “Evidence That Microorganisms at the Animal-Water Interface Drive Sea Star Wasting Disease,” was published on January 6, 2021, in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.. El Sur Ranch allowed access to Andrew Molera. Project administration, Funding: Research by MARINe was primarily sponsored by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (https://www.boem.gov/, grant to PTR #443634 82772), the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (https://www.packard.org/, grant to PTR #443634 63620 BIPRIT), the National Science Foundation (grants to PTR #OCE-1737372 and OCE-1735607), the U.S. National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/), and the State of California Ocean Protection Council (www.opc.ca.gov/, grant to PTR #0CA15032). Sea Stars and Biodiversity. Therefore, we used temperature data only from periods when loggers were fully submerged and recording seawater temperature. However, unlike these previous regional events, in 2014–2015 we documented synchronous declines in P. ochraceus populations across multiple biogeographic regions—a marine disease outbreak of unprecedented geographic scale and magnitude. Pathogenic bacteria did not seem to be present, and though the plague might be caused by a viral or fungal pathogen, no causal agent had been found. Thus, body temperatures cannot be accurately characterized by proxies such as air or substratum temperature, but this instead requires specialized thermal mimics [41]. Field growth rates for P. ochraceus are difficult to estimate because the stars are exceedingly challenging to tag. SSWD is an ongoing disease epidemic, which has devastated intertidal and nearshore sea star populations along much of the west coast of North America [8,12–15]. Early signs of SSWD include a twisted or deflated appearance, followed by the development of lesions (authors’ pers. During emersion at low tide, the body temperature of a sea star is determined by multiple factors including air temperature, shading, angle of incidence to sun, rock type, humidity, wind speed, body shape, size, and behavior [40–42]. PLoS ONE 13(3): Sea star abundance ratios are averaged across all sites within each region for a given season (SP = spring [Feb-Apr], SU = summer [May-Aug], FA = fall [Sep-Nov]). Starting in late summer / fall 2013, each encountered star was assigned a disease category based on the 0–4 scale developed by Bates et al. Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserves, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America, According to Hewson, ocean conditions lead to the production of unusual amounts of organic material, which he said prompts bacteria to thrive. Sea star wasting disease, which is linked to a type of virus, is implicated in the sunflower stars’ decline, as it has been for about 20 other species. During the period following onset of SSWD in populations of P. ochraceus (post), N2,i+1, j = N1ijDjSo,jSw,j, where Sw,j = change in survivorship due to wasting between stage 1 and stage 2 at site j. Furthermore, even relatively well-supported LTEES such as MARINe do not have access to emergency funding to rapidly respond to ecological disasters. Conceptualization, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Port Angeles, Washington, United States of America, Roles Hewson feels that ocean conditions result in the production of exceptional amounts of organic material, which prompts bacteria to thrive. Cooler water temperatures can slow progression of the disease, but not prevent mortality [13,20]. Among regions, the generally densely populated north experienced only modest declines relative to the less densely populated south. In regions north of Point Conception, several sites appeared to be consistently favorable for recruitment in the period pre-onset of SSWD, with relatively high numbers of juveniles recorded across successive years (e.g. obs.). An underlying goal of this coordinated effort would be to develop better forecasting tools for disease events. Supervision, If we assume our ability to detect the smallest size classes of stars did not change over time (i.e., we always failed to detect the same fraction of the population ≤20 mm in radius), we can estimate the additive impact of SSWD on juvenile survivorship by comparing transition rates of size classes during periods pre- and post-onset of SSWD. Hopkins Marine Station provided access to the site within their reserve. The research, “Evidence That Microorganisms at the Animal-Water Interface Drive Sea Star Wasting Disease,” was published Jan. 6 in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. We assessed the impacts of sea star wasting disease in the Salish Sea, a Canadian / United States transboundary marine ecosystem, and world-wide hotspot for temperate asteroid species diversity with a high degree of … Sea stars critical to kelp forest resilience. The research, “Evidence That Microorganisms at the Animal-Water Interface Drive Sea Star Wasting Disease,” was published Jan. 6 in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. Even in areas where P. ochraceus does not play a keystone role, it is still a dominant predator [17,19] and thus is considered an ecologically important species throughout its range. By combining data from MARINe groups with data from the University of British Columbia, we present data on populations of P. ochraceus at 90 rocky intertidal sites spanning the North American Pacific coast, from southeast Alaska to San Diego County, California (Fig 1, S1A–S1H Fig, S1 Table). We analyzed nearly two decades of data from a coordinated monitoring effort at 88 sites ranging from southern British Columbia to San Diego, California along with 2 sites near Sitka, Alaska to better understand the effects of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) on the keystone intertidal predator, Pisaster ochraceus. In Oregon, SSWD was first documented in April 2014 [14] between brief periods of elevated seawater temperatures in March (just prior to SSWD emergence) and May (prior to our summer survey when symptomatic stars were observed). Over the past several years, apparent increases in the frequency of marine disease outbreaks [4] have led to repeated calls for a ‘multi-step’ approach to disease ecology (e.g., [2,25–27]). “It’s a cascade of problems that starts with changes in the environment,” Hewson said, explaining that most of the organic matter comes from microscopic algae exudation (a discharge), zooplankton excretion and egestion, and from decaying animal carcasses. Within months, it had spread from Alaska to Mexico. In changing oceans, sea stars may be 'drowning' Date: January 6, 2021 Source: Cornell University Summary: New research suggests that starfish, victims of sea star wasting disease … In 2013, a range-wide sea star wasting disease (SSWD) outbreak leading to mass mortality across the range of Pisaster ochraceus created a rare opportunity to explore the genetic landscape in which selection acts, and to identify alleles that responded directly … While our data add to the body of literature which indicates that SSWD intensity might be affected by water temperature, they reinforce the conclusion by Maynard et al. Prior to 2013, regional disease outbreaks had been implicated in punctuated and spatially isolated declines in P. ochraceus abundance along the North American Pacific coast from Baja California, Mexico [24] to British Columbia, Canada [23]. Finally, diseased stars were first noted in central and southern California in fall 2013, long before increased seawater temperatures were recorded, and population declines attributed to SSWD began prior to the onset of elevated seawater temperatures. “We should now include microorganisms that don’t directly cause the pathology, since they may hold a key to affecting sea star health.”. Monitoring groups include: Sitka Sound Science Center (SSSC), University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), University of British Columbia (UBC), Olympic National Park (ONP), Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (PBNERR), Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS), Redwoods National and State Park (RNSP), Point Reyes National Seashore (PORE), Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GOGA), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), California State University Fullerton (CSUF), California State Polytechnic University Pomona (CPP), Cabrillo National Monument (CABR), Channel Islands National Park (CHIS). The copiotrophs respire, he said, so while absorbing the organic matter, they deplete oxygen in the sea star’s watery space. In the north, population crashes tended to be less severe than in regions further south. Although this mysterious disease had been observed in the years 1970, 1980, and 1990 scientists have never seen it affect so many sea stars on such a large scale. No, Is the Subject Area "Body temperature" applicable to this article? obs. Site access and field support was provided by the University of California Natural Reserve Systems at Bodega, Landels-Hill Big Creek, Kenneth S. Norris Rancho Marino, Coal Oil Point, Scripps, and Santa Cruz Island. Share this: Share on Flipboard https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.g004. Because of this combination of factors, monitoring efforts initiated at the start of the disease outbreak were unlikely to provide accurate characterizations of changes in P. ochraceus populations at any given location. Among the northern regions, crashes were most severe at sites within San Francisco Bay and also the Salish Sea region of Washington. However, two lines of evidence suggest that this is unlikely. Funding acquisition, Resources, As bacteria consume the organic matter, they deplete the oxygen in the water – creating a low-oxygen micro-environment that surrounds starfish and leads to deflation, discoloration, puffiness, and limb twisting or curling. Therefore, we cannot determine whether differences in juvenile abundance at either broad or localized scales resulted from differential settlement, differential post-settlement mortality, or both. “If you have a dead and rotting starfish next to starfish that are healthy, all of that dead one’s organic matter drifts and fuels the bacteria, creating a hypoxic environment. Yes Methodology, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.g002. Sea star wasting disease devastated intertidal sea star populations from Mexico to Alaska between 2013–15, but little detail is known about its impacts to subtidal species. We used this published estimate of growth rate in our calculations, but among-site differences in rate of growth are certainly possible due to variation in factors such as prey availability and seawater temperature. MARINe is a consortium of 18 groups (including state, federal, university, and private organizations) that conduct coordinated annual monitoring of intertidal community parameters at over 130 sites in four US states. In Oregon, surveys were completed under Oregon DFW permit #’s 18084, 18610, 19306, 20174, and 21411, and access to Fogarty Creek was provided through collaborators at Oregon State University, who have an agreement with the owners. Sewell and Watson [35] reported extremely low survivorship of P. ochraceus recruits smaller than 40 mm, exceeding 97% mortality over one year in a population with no reported symptoms of disease. Project administration, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.s001, Sizes are radial measurements (see methods) and surveys are labeled as spring (Feb-Apr) or fall (Oct-Nov) samples for a given year. No, Is the Subject Area "Starfish" applicable to this article? Software, [14] recorded cooler than normal mean monthly seawater temperatures in the period preceding their first observations of stars showing signs of SSWD in Oregon. Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton, California, United States of America, Roles Some lab studies have shown that short-term exposure to warmer water elevates SSWD prevalence, increasing the proportion of symptomatic individuals and the severity of the outbreak [23], while other studies indicate that temperature affects the onset of symptoms for P. ochraceus juveniles, but not for adults [13]. The progression of visible signs of the disease can be rapid, on the scale of days. Raimondi, M.H. Water temperature strongly influences the metabolic rate of P. ochraceus [43], and plays an important role in thermoregulation during low tide [42]. However, our primary goal was not to calculate growth rates, but rather assess whether SSWD affects the transition rate from one size class (10–20 mm) to another (50–60 mm) (i.e. com.). age = 9 months) grew to approximately 60 mm in size after 1 year. The relationship presented here between seawater temperature anomalies and abundance of P. ochraceus relative to the long-term mean suggests that on a large geographic scale, anomalously high temperatures are unlikely to have played a role in disease onset, as in most regions, symptoms appeared in populations prior to periods of elevated water temperature. The disease has been linked to a virus, although environmental factors may also be involved. Because the values were extremely non-normal, we bootstrapped values 2500 times to generate a distribution of possible means, which allowed estimation of the overall median and confidence intervals. Recently however, a severe disease outbreak occurred in a group of very well-studied organisms–sea stars along the west coast of North America. Other contributors are Citlalli A. Aquino, graduate student, San Francisco State University; Ryan M. Besemer, undergraduate student, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Jan Kocian, diver and photographer; Peter Raimondi, professor, University of California Santa Cruz; Lauren M. Schiebelhut, postdoctoral researcher, University of California, Merced; and John P. Wares, professor, University of Georgia. Now scientists believe that it may be respiratory distress. Another factor that researchers consider when trying to predict the spread of a disease is the density of the affected populations in different areas. Yes Yes This context and regularity provide a critical link between ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ science when an epidemic occurs, as effective disease management starts with ‘routine tasks’ that lead to early disease detection and communication of results [8]. Second, the persistently low abundance of individuals observed in our post-onset of SSWD intertidal surveys through 2016 lends no support for the conclusion that our sites harbored pools of healthy subtidal P. ochraceus individuals and thus that our intertidal surveys over-estimated the degree of disease impact at our sites. Thus, only data collected in 2000–2016 are presented here. Investigation, Low levels of SSWD-symptomatic sea stars are still present throughout the impacted range, thus the outlook for population recovery is uncertain. The disease — known as sea star wasting syndrome — begins as a small lesion, and eventually results in the loss of limbs and ultimate disintegration and death of the leggy animal. Investigation, In hindsight, our data suggest that the SSWD event defied prediction based on two factors found to be important in other marine disease events, sea water temperature and population density, and illustrate the importance of surveillance of natural populations as one element of an integrated approach to marine disease ecology. Juvenile mortality due to SSWD was estimated as follows: In the period prior to onset of SSWD (pre), N2,i+1, j = N1ijDjSo,j where Dj = relative difference in detectability between stage 1 and stage 2 recruits at site j, and So,j = ordinary survivorship between stage 1 and stage 2 for site j. Intertidal temperature data have been continuously recorded, typically at 15-minute intervals, at select sites from Washington to Point Conception, California, beginning as early as 1999 (with different start years for different sites). At some Washington sites, loggers were either encased in epoxy for protection and then bolted and epoxied to the bedrock, or housed in flow-through PVC tubes that were bolted to the substrate. ... At a time when marine diseases and mass mortalities are on the rise, this study documents the impact of little-known wildlife diseases and potential trajectory of recovery in a keystone marine species. Percent decline of stars in adult size classes (>30 mm) exceeded 75% at all but one southern site, and was ≥ 99% at over half of the 39 sites in the southern regions. For each site where stars were measured in LTM plots, the total number of juveniles counted per survey during annual sampling, or the mean total number for semiannual surveys, was compared over the period of study. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.s003. The Sea Ranch Association allowed access to our site there. P. ochraceus individuals do move between the intertidal and subtidal zones, and our surveys did not extend into the subtidal zone; thus it is possible that our data overestimated population declines at our sites if P. ochraceus individuals persisted in large numbers in subtidal refugia. This is the largest marine disaster that has ever been recorded. Infected animals develop lesions that eat away tissue, with limbs dropping off as the animals die. We use these data to: 1) present regional patterns of difference in the degree to which SSWD has impacted P. ochraceus populations, 2) examine whether sea star density might have played a role in disease severity, 3) explore the potential relationship between P. ochraceus decline and water temperature, which has been implicated as a contributing factor in prior wasting events, and 4) present spatial patterns in P. ochraceus recruitment and juvenile survival between pre-and post- outbreak periods that can be used to 5) assess the potential for recovery of P. ochraceus populations within SSWD-impacted areas. Annual permits to work at sites located in California State Parks were granted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation as follows: Channel Coast District State Parks to R. Ambrose and S. Lee, Crystal Cove State Park to S. Murray, J. Smith, and J. Burnaford, and State Park system-wide permits to P. Raimondi. [13] reported that anomalous (elevated) seawater temperatures were linked to increased probability of SSWD presence at their sites on the San Juan Islands, WA. Writing – review & editing, Affiliation We can calculate all the terms on the left side of Eq 3 (the N terms) for all sites where there were years with recruits in both the pre and post periods, which means we can get estimates of SW and therefore also MW (total number of informative sites = 35). “The geographic extent is vastly larger than we’ve seen before. Our geographically extensive data set shows that the intensity of the impact of SSWD was not uniform across the entire affected area, with proportionally greater population declines in the lower density southern regions (mainland southern California and the California Channel Islands) than in the higher density regions of northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Sea star wasting disease devastated intertidal sea star populations from Mexico to Alaska between 2013–15, but little detail is known about its impacts to subtidal species. Regardless of the mechanism (differential settlement, differential mortality, or both), our data show a clear difference in recruitment between ‘north’ and ‘south’ on this larger geographic scale, yet even within the ‘high recruitment’ northern regions, patterns of recruitment were extremely variable among sites, with no distinct latitudinal pattern. Investigation, In fact, this short time-frame has led some pathologists to argue that “wasting” disease is a misnomer, as this term suggests a gradual reduction in body mass (M.M. Supervision, Visualization, After SSWD-induced mortality, decomposition occurs quickly. 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