This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
On May 18, over 100,000 gallons of oil gushed onto a nine-mile stretch of California coastline. A buried pipeline ruptured next to a culvert that led to a Santa Barbara beach, sending oil straight into the water. Government officials have closed both Refugio State Beach and El Captain State Beach until early June; it’s the worst oil spill to hit the Santa Barbara coastline since 1969, when 4.2 million gallons of oil slicked the Pacific and helped trigger the modern environmental movement.
This isn’t just any beach. In the Santa Barbara Channel, cold water from the north meets warm water from the south, carrying a mosaic of unusual species. It’s almost Mediterranean, and it’s rare. Off California, massive forests of kelp — the largest type of marine algae — create “this really cool three-dimensional habitat that harbors a lot of biodiversity,” says Bob Miller, a marine biologist at UC Santa Barbara. The seaweed grows up to 130 feet tall and supports more than 800 species, including infant fish and invertebrates like crabs and snails. Bigger marine mammals l... Read more