On California’s Coast, Black Abalone, Already Vulnerable to Climate Change, are Increasingly Threatened by Wildfire

Inside Climate News

It’s four in the morning, damp and dark along the central California coast. Huddled around the back of a minivan, five scientists in waders and boots tenderly move 41 black abalone from large white coolers into reusable Trader Joe’s grocery totes lined with wet, cold washcloths and ice packs.

With abalone slung over their shoulders, they hike towards a field of jagged, slick boulders, beams of light bobbing from their headlamps.  The team is working at the mercy of low tides, which meant a 1 a.m. start to their day, but the morning’s early negative tide will help them return rescued abalone into the wild.

In February, Wendy Bragg, a marine ecologist and doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, along with other scientists from Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network or MARINe, retrieved 200 endangered black abalone from areas along Big Sur’s coast. Heavy rain had washed over land scarred by California’s worst fire season on record, creating large debris flows that barreled off cliffs and slammed into rocky intertidal habitat. The landslides buried some black abalone alive and destroyed rocky shoreline preferred by the marine snail, which is endemic to California and Mexico.

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