In one of the wettest summers on record, as boaters dodge floating debris sent down from the Conowingo Dam, jellyfish have been few and far between. In fact, scientists tell Bay Bulletin that bay nettles, the jellyfish we know best, may be more scarce this year than ever before.We've had summers where they didn't appear until August, and disappeared shortly after. But so far, we haven't seen a single one. And I don't mind.
Denise Breitburg, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), says multiple factors resulting from this summer’s rain are probably contributing to the scarcity of nettles. Salinity in many areas has been below levels that nettles can tolerate, let alone reproduce. The high water flow rates we’ve seen this season have physically washed nettles and ctenophores (comb jellies) out of tributaries and down the Bay. And, says Breitburg, over several decades, rising water temperatures have reached levels that are harmful or even lethal to jellyfish.
The lack of stinging nettles may be welcome news for those who like to play in the water—paddleboarders, jetskiiers, wakeboarders, swimmers, and the like—but environmentalists worry that their absence could throw the ecosystem out of balance.
Breitburg hasn’t seen bay nettles or comb jellies anywhere near the SERC facility on the Rhode River. And what’s more, she says, as of August, none of her colleagues at the Chesapeake Biological Lab in Solomons, the Horn Point lab in Cambridge, and PEARL, the Morgan State lab on the lower Patuxent, had seen jellyfish anywhere near their labs, or the Maryland locations they were sampling. And that’s a first . . .
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
More Good News from the Bay
Chesapeake Sees Unprecedented Jellyfish Scarcity