A many-armed yellow sunflower sea star glides across the ocean floor
Photo by Athena Maguire

Critically endangered sea star not recovering in the wild, scientists point to the need for restoration efforts

New research documenting the population crash of the iconic sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), and complete absence of population recovery since the 2013 outbreak of the marine wildlife epidemic sea star wasting disease, was published today in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study calls for new strategies for protecting species impacted by increasingly frequent marine epidemics associated with changing ocean conditions.

The analysis was a collaborative and international undertaking between scientists at Oregon State University, The Nature Conservancy and over 60 partner institutions ranging from First Nations, academia, NGOs, state and federal agencies, and community-based monitoring programs spanning the entire west coast of North America.

 This remarkable partnership, which spans a broad geographic range, has come together to document the climate driven mass mortality of sunflower stars with local extinction in the south in California and Mexico and dramatic declines in the north across Washington, Canada and Alaska”.

- Laura Rogers-Bennett

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