If You Do Not Happen To Be In Monterey Bay, You Might Want To Be

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Something is happening in the Bay Area, and it is worth a listen, or a quick read. National Public Radio (USA) has a podcast version of this story here:

Monterey Bay on California’s central coast rests atop one of the largest underwater canyons in the world. It’s deeper than the Grand Canyon, making it possible for lots of ocean life — including humpback whales, orcas, dolphins and sea lions — to be seen extremely close to shore. That is, given the right circumstances. Lately, the right circumstances have converged, and there’s more marine and wildlife in the bay than anyone’s seen in recent memory.

Steve Palumbi is director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, where the university’s students study the ocean. The marine lab sits practically on the bay, and Palumbi says it’s hard sometimes to keep his students’ attention when a pod of whales or dolphins comes swimming by the window.

“You just have to stop your lecture and let the ocean get over that,” he says.

Every spring something called “upwelling” begins in Monterey Bay. Winds from the north force the deep, cold water in the bay to “well” to the surface. “This cold water is also nutrient-rich,” Palumbi tells Morning Edition’s Renee Montagne, “and it brings natural fertilizer in to make the ocean ecosystem bloom.”

Then there’s the chain reaction, he says. “Plankton blooms, the plankton-feeding fish like anchovies feed and grow hugely, and that sparks the whole ecosystem to thrive. Essentially, we get serial dining of the plankton and the anchovies and then the bigger fish and then the seals, the whales — all the way up the food chain.”

The upwelling was a little higher than usual last year, says Palumbi. Then, the anchovies hung around longer than normal.

Then, in late March, this year’s upwelling season began with particularly strong winds “that have started our season to just an amazing degree,” Palumbi says.

Now the bay is like an “ocean buffet — open for business.”

Although this influx is unprecedented in recent times, Palumbi tells Montagne, it was probably normal 200 years ago…

Read the whole story here.

 

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