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April 7, 2021

Marine heatwaves are global phenomena that can have major impacts on the structure and function of coastal ecosystems. The 2014-2016 northeast Pacific marine heatwave in the Gulf of Alaska was the longest lasting heatwave globally over the past decade.   

Marine heatwaves are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity because of climate change, so it remains uncertain when or if the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem will return to a pre-heatwave state. A web story published by the National Park Service summarizes collaborative research findings and publications from the Gulf Watch Alaska Long-term Monitoring Program, including work from USGS Alaska Science Center scientists and partners.  

This story discusses changes in the Gulf of Alaska from rocky intertidal community structure, responses across food webs, changes throughout the ecosystem, and heatwave-induced collapse of the forage fish community that led to mass starvation of seabirds, marine mammals, and groundfish. There are links to publications and more. 

NPS Feature Story: Most Recent Data Shows Gulf of Alaska Marine Ecosystem Slow to Return to Pre-Heatwave State

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