A year after the heat dome event that killed billions of plants and animals in British Columbia, scientists say ecosystems are recovering, but could be transformed forever if such events become more frequent.
Cold-water marine species could be replaced by warm-water organisms, triggering cascading effects through the environment, said Christopher Harley, a zoology professor at the University of British Columbia.
“If we had another heat wave this summer, it would be a problem,” he said. “An ecosystem might be able to handle a big heat wave once every few decades — there’s enough time for recovery — but if it starts hitting every four or five years, the species that we’re used to just can no longer persist.”
Lessons learned from last year’s heat dome
Dozens of temperature records were set during the heat dome. The high-pressure system settled over Western Canada, acting as a lid to trap a layer of hot air that got progressively hotter for about a week. Three successive Canadian records were set in the town of Lytton, where the temperature topped out at 49.6 C on June 30, the day before a fire destroyed most of the village.
The heat caused more than 600 human deaths, the BC Coroners Service reported. It also led to mass mortalities of marine life, reduced crop yields and contributed to wildfires, which later caused devastating landslides last fall.
Diane Srivastava, director of the Canadian Institute for Ecology and Evolution, organized a group of scientists now working to understand the heat dome’s impact on species and ecosystems. She said some were “immediate and obvious” but several years of data is required to “get a full picture of the longer-term effects.”
Harley, a member of the group, said the heat wave caught researchers off guard and they are now “scrambling to understand” what it will mean for the oceanic ecosystem.
“I’m a bit embarrassed to say we don’t know (the ecological consequences) because it hadn’t occurred to us to ask what would happen if it got hot enough to kill billions of marine animals,” he said. “That heat dome was so far outside of what anyone expected.”
Rebuilding Lytton for a much hotter, more dangerous future
Scientists initially estimated more than a billion marine animals died along the Pacific coast. Harley, who has studied shorelines on the West Coast since 1995, said this was an underestimation.
“Easily many billions of animals died,” he said. “It was a perfect storm of a few different things. It was obviously much, much hotter than usual and those high temperatures coincided with very low tides.”
Species with mobility had a higher survival rate than those that anchor to rocks in shallow waters, he explained.
“Mussels aren’t back yet and some of the common seaweeds are not, but baby barnacles are having the time of their lives. They’re all over the place and the first step in recovery is (when) they come in,” he said. “The foundation has now been laid.”
Adam Ford, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology at the University of British Columbia, said the large mammals he studies were far less impacted by the heat than oceanic life.
“We’ve got a couple of years of data under our belt and there wasn’t a bump in mortality or anything during that time.”
He said this is because large mammals are homeothermic, meaning they can regulate their body temperatures, and were able to move to cooler areas to avoid direct heat.
Karen Hodges, a professor of conservation ecology at the University of British Columbia, said most mobile animals and those that burrow into the soil likely fared better during the wildfires that followed the heat dome than those unable to flee quickly. She said it’s difficult to estimate total deaths because it would require “many assumptions about animal densities” before the fires.
How fast an area’s ecosystem recovers depends on environmental aspects like soil moisture, but hinges on fire management practices and climate change response, Hodges said.
“The answer to what comes back becomes a question of what humans do to these landscapes in the next decade, two decades if you want to be generous, because we could either set up the conditions for low levels of frequent, small fires or we could set up conditions that enable repeats of these massive fires,” she said. “It’s a pivotal time.”
Ford echoed the call for better wildfire practices to mitigate the impacts of intense heat.
“We already know that climate change and poor management practices, like fire suppression, for the last 50 to 70 years has really degraded the health of our forests. So you put those two things together, we’ve got a recipe for catastrophic failures that trickled through all sorts of areas of society, including biodiversity,” he said.
“We need to figure out how we put fire back on the landscape in an amount and intensity that restores habitat for wildlife and people.”
Wildland fires are a natural part of the forest ecosystem and important for maintaining the health and diversity of the forest, Natural Resources Canada says on its website.
“Prescribed fires offer a valuable resource management tool for enhancing ecological conditions and eliminating excessive fuel buildup,” the website says.
For decades, scientists in B.C. have been calling for the use of low-severity fires to “maintain” forest health by creating fire breaks. Hodges said fire suppression efforts made to protect communities eliminated many of those natural breaks, allowing fires to spread more easily.
She said the provincial report following B.C.’s historic 2003 wildfires, which forced the evacuation of over 45,000 people from the province’s interior, was a turning point.
“That report is full of advice about letting some fires burn, about FireSmart communities and about prescribed fire and all sorts of things that the province basically didn’t do, but that advice has been in government hands since at least that report,” she said.
Hodges said large fires can also compound climate change-related weather events, like the catastrophic floods that took place in B.C. last fall. She said fires that kill thousands of trees affect soil composition and can make it hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. Then, when heavy rains occur, water isn’t absorbed into the soil, causing landslides.
“Things like this are way more common after these big, hot lethal fires than after the small run-of-the-mill fires we’ve had in our history,” she said.
The Ministry of Forests said in a statement that it uses prescribed burning as “one of several fuel management tools and techniques to help reduce the intensity of naturally occurring wildfires while returning an integral process to the ecosystem.”
Rachel White, the lead author of a report on the widespread ecological impacts of the 2021 heat wave, currently under peer review, said the lack of synthesized data has been a major barrier for scientists.
“We’re going to have more frequent and hotter heat waves, and this is going to have an impact on all of the ecology. In order to monitor that, we need data,” she said.
“We need that data in order to actually understand what the impacts are and, once we know how systems are responding now, that gives us more information to say how they’ll respond in the future if the climate continues to warm through human actions.”
Harley, the zoology professor, and his team is working to better understand what makes an ecosystem more or less sensitive to heat waves.
“There may be small changes that we can make so ecosystems are more resistant to something like a big heat wave or a big drought,” he said.
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Srivastava said the Institute for Ecology and Evolution has been advocating for a provincial biodiversity monitoring network.
“Events like this sort of point out the need to have such a monitoring network for biodiversity already in place, which would allow us to have a long-term monitoring of many populations,” she said. “Instead, what we’re having to do is pull together data from many different sources to try to see the immediate effects and then the long-term effects.”
She said the development of a network is “a recent and ongoing subject of conversation” with provincial and federal governments.
B.C.’s Environment Ministry confirmed it is working to synthesize ecology research and data on climate change as part of its new Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy.
“Understanding how climatic disruption will affect ecosystems is essential to responding to climate change,” it said in a statement. “The province is supporting the establishment of an Ecosystem Forecast Centre within the Ministry of Forests to build expertise and resources to translate technical climate change projections into forecasts of ecosystem change in B.C.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press
The Norwegian security service PST has raised its terror alert to the highest level after a mass shooting left two people dead and many wounded during Pride week in Oslo.
Acting PST chief Roger Berg called the shootings an “extreme Islamist terror act.” He said the gunman, who was arrested shortly after the shootings, had a “long history of violence and threats.”
Investigators said the suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, opened fire at three locations in downtown Oslo.
While the motive was unclear, organizers of Oslo Pride canceled a parade that was set for Saturday as the highlight of a weeklong festival. One of the shootings happened outside the London Pub, a bar popular with the city’s LGBTQ community, just hours before the parade was set to begin.
Police attorney Christian Hatlo said the suspect was being held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, based on the number of people targeted at multiple locations.
“Our overall assessment is that there are grounds to believe that he wanted to cause grave fear in the population,” Hatlo said.
Hatlo said the suspect’s mental health was also being investigated.
“We need to go through his medical history, if he has any. It’s not something that we’re aware of now,” he said.
The shootings happened around 1 a.m. local time, sending panicked revelers fleeing into the streets or trying to hide from the gunman.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”
Another witness, Marcus Nybakken, 46, said he was alerted to the incident by a commotion in the area.
“When I walked into Cesar’s bar there were a lot of people starting to run and there was a lot of screaming. I thought it was a fight out there, so I pulled out. But then I heard that it was a shooting and that there was someone shooting with a submachine gun,” Nybakken told Norwegian broadcaster TV2.
Police inspector Tore Soldal said two of the shooting victims died and 10 people were being treated for serious injuries, but none of them was believed to be life-threatening.
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the LGBTQ community.
“We all stand by you,” Gahr Stoere wrote.
King Harald V also offered condolences and said he and Norway’s royal family were “horrified by the night’s shooting tragedy.”
“We sympathize with all relatives and affected and send warm thoughts to all who are now scared, restless and in grief,” the Norwegian monarch said in a statement. “We must stand together to defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for each other. We must continue to stand up for all people to feel safe.”
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.
“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.
Investigators said the suspect was known to police, as well as to Norway’s security police, but not for any major violent crimes. His criminal record included a narcotics offense and a weapons offense for carrying a knife, Hatlo said.
Hatlo said police seized two weapons after the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon, both of which he described as “not modern” without giving details.
He said the suspect had not made any statement to the police and was in contact with a defense lawyer.
Hatlo said it was too early to say whether the gunman specifically targeted members of the LGBTQ community.
“We have to look closer at that, we don’t know yet,” he said.
Still, police advised organizers of the Pride festival to cancel the parade Saturday.
“Oslo Pride therefore urges everyone who planned to participate or watch the parade to not show up. All events in connection with Oslo Prides are canceled,” organizers said on the official Facebook page of the event.
Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of FRI, the Norwegian organisation for sexual and gender diversity, said the shooting has shaken the Nordic country’s gay community.
“It’s tough for the queer movement to experience this,” he was quoted by TV2 as saying. “We encourage everyone to stand together, take care of each other. We’ll be back later, proud, visible but right now it’s not the time for that.”
Norway has a relatively low crime rate but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.
Video from before, during, and after the deadly shooting over the weekend in southeast Oak Cliff continue to circulate on social media as people try to understand what happened at a trial ride and concert.
According to the Dallas Police Department, officers responded to a shooting at an unpermitted trail ride and concert at 5050 Cleveland Road at around 12:13 a.m. Sunday. Promoters for the event called it the “Second Annual Epic Easter Bike Out and Field Party.”
On Monday Dallas Police said 16 people, including three minors, were shot during the concert. Keaton Dejuane Gilmore, 26, was killed in the shooting. Gilmore is reported to have been shot in the head near the stage and died at the scene.
The 15 people injured in the shooting have been identified by Dallas Police as 20-year-old Christian Adams, 22-year-old Jazmin Anderson, 24-year old Randy Davis, 25-year-old Forlando Dean, 29-year-old Breanna Gray, 24-year-old Ashley Jones, 24-year-old Willie Martin, 22-year-old Madison May, 18-year-old Jamal Rylander, 29-year-old Terra Starks, 24-year-old Sebastian Williams and three unnamed juveniles ages 13, 14 and 15.
“I just wish it all would have been prevented,” said Latrice Mollice who attended the event with her boyfriend. She said the entire night was fine until that moment.
Mollice said they were moving closer to the stage for the next musical act when they witnessed the shooting.
“The boy was shooting in the middle of the crowd, and he was shooting in the air first and then he stopped shooting in the air and pointed it towards the crowd and that’s when we all were ducking and taking cover and I seen another person, he was shooting back at the boy. So I don’t know if they were shooting at each other at first or either he was trying to stop him from hurting somebody else, I don’t know,” explained Mollice.
She said the gunshots were coming her way. She said she and her boyfriend crawled and then ran.
“They were still shooting, it was nonstop fire,” said Mollice who had some cuts on her legs, minor injuries she said compared to what could have happened.
“When he started shooting first, the crowd started to move and it was just knocking everybody over, so I got knocked over, my boyfriend got knocked over. When we both got knocked over, people were running on top of us,” described Mollice. “We couldn’t get up, we had to be strong and get up because they were still coming there were so many people they were trampling over everybody. Everybody was falling. There were so many people on the ground, you couldn’t tell who was hurt who was not hurt, all you could do was just get up and run yourself.”
Dallas Police continue to investigate and have not made any arrests yet. DPD Chief Eddie Garcia said the event shouldn’t have happened since organizers did not have a permit.
Garcia said seven off-duty officers were said to be working at the event but that they left before the outbreak of violence. He said they shouldn’t have been working at the event since it was unpermitted.
According to flyers posted by concert promoters, there were supposed to be police along with security. On Sunday the organizer of the event posted a statement via Facebook stating,
“On behalf of the Epic Easter Officials, we are saddened by the unfortunate events that occurred yesterday. Our goal was to organize a positive event for and by our people. We took the necessary steps to offer safety by having Dallas Police officers and security personnel on the scene,” the statement read in part.
“Additionally, emergency officers and vehicles were on standby. However, some things were still out of our control. Our team did not expect a turn out of that capacity, but we truly appreciate the support of all that came & those who traveled to attend. Our prayers and deepest condolences go out to the individuals and families involved.”
Memphis rapper Big Boogie was supposed to be the main headliner at the event. He posted on Instagram that the shooting happened before he arrived.
On Monday a cleaning crew was out at the site removing trash and personal belongings left behind by people who ran.