2019 Nov 21;14(11):e0225248. 2019 Nov 21;14(11):e0225248. It is important to note that the patterns described here are based on population declines documented by our annual or semiannual surveys, not on when disease symptoms were first observed. Jaffe N, et al. For more than seven years, a mysterious wasting disease has nearly killed off sea star populations around the world. Since 2013, sea star wasting disease has “caused massive, ongoing mortality from Mexico to Alaska,” the study states. A virus has been linked to the disease that progresses from white lesions to loss of arms and ultimately death. Most LTM sites south of San Francisco, CA were sampled semiannually each spring and autumn, while most sites to the north were sampled annually in the summer except for those in British Columbia, which were monitored in the winter. Writing – review & editing, Affiliation Investigation, Jaffe N, Eberl R, Bucholz J, Cohen CS. Sea stars are important members of intertidal and subtidal communities along the eastern Pacific coast, yet sea star numbers have been decimated in the past few years by sea star wasting disease (SSWD). Both before and after the onset of the SSWD outbreak, we documented higher recruitment of P. ochraceus in the north than in the south, and while some juveniles are surviving (as evidenced by transition of recruitment pulses to larger size classes), post-SSWD survivorship is lower than during pre-SSWD periods. Some of these species stand at the brink of extinction. We used these values to determine whether transition rates from our smallest size classes (10–20 mm) to the size class after an estimated 1 year of growth (50–60 mm) was impacted by SSWD. Visualization, A mysterious disease called Sea Star Wasting Disease Syndrome (SSWS) has been causing mass mortality of sea stars along much of the Pacific Coast from Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska. An access agreement was granted annually to the PISCO group at UCSC from the Pebble Beach Company to do surveys at Stillwater Cove. It remains to be seen how the severe and persistent declines of P. ochraceus will impact the structure and make-up of rocky intertidal communities at this never-before documented scale. 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. The Sea Ranch Association allowed access to our site there. Will the absence or sustained anomalously low abundance of this important intertidal predator ripple through the food web and result in long-term impacts at southern sites? 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. From Extension Specialist Jennifer O'Leary: Sea stars are an iconic symbol of California’s rocky intertidal habitats, inhabiting tide pools and low intertidal benches. Supervision, Water temperature strongly influences the metabolic rate of P. ochraceus [43], and plays an important role in thermoregulation during low tide [42]. 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. Sea Star Wasting Disease, Revisited A new survey of deepwater sea stars adds to observations of their coastal counterparts to unveil the full scale of the destruction caused by the epidemic. Therefore for any site and pre/post year combination: 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. 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. Raimondi, M.H. The progression of visible signs of the disease can be rapid, on the scale of days. Examples of ‘marine disease emergencies’ [8] in which ecologically critical species have been affected by disease outbreaks and subsequent mass mortalities include eelgrass wasting disease (reviewed in [9]), white-band disease in reef-building corals [10], an unidentified pathogen affecting the tropical urchin Diadema antillarum [11] and, as reported here, sea star wasting disease (SSWD) in the ochre sea star Pisaster ochraceus. 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. Field support was also provided by the Gulf of Farallones, Monterey Bay and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuaries and the research staff at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. However, our data indicate that the role of temperature in the initiation or intensification of the SSWD outbreak is still unclear. Investigation, Our data from Fogarty Creek, OR (one of the sites sampled by Menge et al. 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. Another essential function of LTEES, particularly those occurring at a broad geographic scale such as this sea star monitoring effort, lies in providing the data necessary for predicting population recovery rates after an impact has occurred. Supervision, ... but may have exacerbated its impact in the period that followed. 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. P. ochraceus is one of the most recognized species from the intertidal and shallow subtidal zones along this coast, with a broad geographic range from Prince William Sound Alaska, USA to Cedros Island, Baja California, Mexico [16]. Reports of sea star disease and mortality on the East Coast began showing up in articles during July of this year. Because these data are collected on an annual (or semiannual) basis, they are well-suited for examining long-term trends in sea star abundance and population size structure across a large geographic area. Methodology, For more information about PLOS Subject Areas, click During submersion, small objects and organisms rapidly equilibrate to the temperature of the surrounding ocean water. According to Hewson, ocean conditions lead to the production of unusual amounts of organic material, which he said prompts bacteria to thrive. Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Padilla Bay, Washington, United States of America, Roles 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]. We did not formally test the relationship between water temperature and sea star declines because the temporal scale of our population surveys was too coarse to capture the temporal scale at which P. ochraceus responds to its environment (e.g., [33]). Support was provided to CDGH by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant (RGPIN-2016-05441). Supervision, Diseased sea stars were first reported by researchers at Olympic National Park, Washington, who had been collecting population data on P. ochraceus for several years as part of the MARINe network. After the sea star wasting disease ravaged the sunflower sea star's populations along the Pacific west coast, the species has now been listed as "Critically Endangered". A variety of components factor into population recovery, including recruitment of new individuals, juvenile survivorship to the adult stage, and disease persistence. 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. It is a generalist predator, with a diet that includes both sessile and mobile invertebrate prey items from multiple taxa (including annelid worms, barnacles, brachiopods, chitons, mussels, and whelks: [7,17–18]). Share this: Share on Flipboard In addition to Hewson, Cornellians on this research include Christopher M. DeRito, researcher, Department of Microbiology; Ian R. Porter, assistant clinical professor, College of Veterinary Medicine; Jordan E. Rede, graduate student, Department of Microbiology; and Jed P. Sparks, professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. PLoS One. Yes Sunflower sea stars (commonly called starfish) are dying off by the millions on the Pacific Coast from Sea Star Wasting Disease. The relationship between temperature and sea star decline was not formally tested because the temporal scale of our population surveys was too coarse to capture the temporal scale at which P. ochraceus responds to its environment (e.g., [33]). Large-scale impacts of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) on intertidal sea stars and implications for recovery. Department of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, United States of America, Affiliation Is the Subject Area "Ocean temperature" applicable to this article? Project administration, [14] recorded cooler than normal mean monthly seawater temperatures in the period preceding their first observations of stars showing signs of SSWD in Oregon. 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. Conceptualization, within and among regions), and c) compare recovery estimates at various scales in order to identify factors that might facilitate or hinder recovery. According to Hewson, ocean conditions lead to the production of unusual amounts of organic material, which he said prompts bacteria to thrive. Our geographically broad data set provides important context for recruitment patterns previously highlighted by more regional studies. A deflated appearance can precede other morphological signs of the disease. Two regional studies that analyzed P. ochraceus population data at finer geographic and temporal scales than our study reached different conclusions about the role of temperature in this epidemic. After SSWD-induced mortality, decomposition occurs quickly. 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). Writing – review & editing, Affiliations In Washington, work at Post Point was conducted under Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) permit # 120720–1 and access to sites on Makah land and the Quinault Nation was granted to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) for all surveys. Only the mid to low zone contains habitat appropriate for P. ochraceus, thus when area sampled was calculated for each site, we subtracted the high zone portion of the swaths beyond which no P. ochraceus occurred. Juveniles were also rare in Alaska, but with only two sites, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the region as a whole. 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]. Project administration, 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. Once a disease outbreak does occur, especially one associated with a mass mortality event [30], the ability to assess the degree of population recovery becomes critically important. No animals were collected for these surveys, but many sites required permits for general research or permission for access. Software, This highlights the importance of surveillance as one facet of an integrated approach to disease ecology. 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. We are grateful to the Makah Tribe and Quinault Nation, the Sea Ranch Association, Hopkins Marine Reserve, the Pebble Beach Company, El Sur Ranch, Bixby Management Inc., Hollister Ranch, and Vandenberg Air Force Base for access to sites, and to the Sitka Sound Science Center for field support in Alaska. Although sea stars have been making a comeback since then, scientists are still working to find out exactly what caused the sea star wasting disease (SSWD), with some suggesting that … 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. Examples of ‘marine disease emergencies’ in which ecologically critical species have been affected by disease outbreaks and subsequent mass mortalities include eelgrass wasting disease (reviewed in ), white-band disease in reef-building corals , an unidentified pathogen affecting the tropical urchin Diadema antillarum and, as reported here, sea star wasting disease (SSWD) in the ochre sea … In hindsight, our data suggest that several aspects of the SSWD event defied prediction. Overall, because of this contrast between the large-scale geographic break (north/south) and smaller scale variability, the data suggest that a “general” pattern of recruitment for P. ochraceus may be difficult to describe, and consequently that our ability to predict the trajectory of recovery for any given site or region is limited. In these circumstances, data from ongoing monitoring programs provide the best means of assessing the impact of this disease. 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.. 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). Thus, only data collected in 2000–2016 are presented here. The wasting disease that is affecting sea stars also is not specific to one species: more than 20 sea star species have been affected so far. P. ochraceus is well-known as the original keystone species [7], but its’ ability to play a keystone role in rocky intertidal systems hinges on the community role of the foundation species Mytilus californianus, which in turn depends on environmental factors such as the degree of wave action and sand influence at a site [19]. Thus, body temperatures cannot be accurately characterized by proxies such as air or substratum temperature, but this instead requires specialized thermal mimics [41]. While elevated seawater temperatures were not broadly linked to the initial emergence of SSWD, anomalously high seawater temperatures in 2014 and 2015 might have exacerbated the disease’s impact. Because of changes in temperature logger technology, three different data loggers (all from Onset Computer Corporation) have been used over time: HOBO pendant UA-002-64, HOBO UTBI-001 TidbiT, and HOBO UTBI-001 TidbiT v2. These piers are located in protected sandy areas, which can have elevated temperatures as compared to rocky shores (Raimondi per. Supervision, Supervision, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.g003. Sea star wasting syndrome is a general description of a set of symptoms that are found in sea stars. Permission to access sites located on Vandenberg Air Force Base was granted by the U.S. Air Force. 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. 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. Another factor that researchers consider when trying to predict the spread of a disease is the density of the affected populations in different areas. (3), And juvenile mortality due to wasting is: Without “pre-outbreak” data to provide historical context, it is impossible to evaluate the impact of the disease or the trajectory of recovery for a P. ochraceus population. Low levels of SSWD-symptomatic sea stars are still present throughout the impacted range, thus the outlook for population recovery is uncertain. No, Is the Subject Area "Epidemiology" applicable to this article? Methodology, The study titled “Evidence That Microorganisms at the Animal-Water Interface Drive Sea Star Wasting Disease,” was published in the Frontiers in Microbiology journal on January 6 th, 2021. The problem surfaced in 2013, when sea star wasting disease (or SSWD) was spotted along the B.C. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.g002. 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. "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. Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Port Angeles, Washington, United States of America, Roles A starfish … It then rapidly began to lay waste to many as 20 different sea star species from Mexico to Alaska, said Gehman, a researcher with … broad scope, and wide readership – a perfect fit for your research every time. 2010, Fig 3). No, Is the Subject Area "California" applicable to this article? Data from these prior disease events indicate that most outbreaks were spatially and temporally limited. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192870.g001. 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. Large-scale impacts of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) on intertidal sea stars and implications for recovery. Each of these components can vary among affected populations, thus it is necessary to have long-term coordinated monitoring of multiple populations in order to: a) build recovery benchmark targets based on specific data, b) make informed assessments of recovery at various scales (e.g. Writing – original draft, For example, mainland southern sites in Orange County are heavily sand influenced with low wave forces [49] and patchy, monolayered M. californianus beds (authors’ unpublished data: www.pacificrockyintertidal.org), a set of conditions under which P. ochraceus would not be expected to exert keystone predator effects [19]. Characterizing the effects of temperature on disease outbreaks for organisms in the intertidal zone is complicated by the change in medium that accompanies changing tides. PLoS One. 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