First, it is important to know the difference between weather and climate. Climate is the average temperature, humidity, cloudiness, precipitation, and wind that take place for a prolonged amount of time. Weather is the condition that people experience on a day to day time scale. “Weather is what you’re wearing today; climate is what you have in your closet.”
Climate change refers to long-term significant changes in the “average weather” that a given region experiences.
When we burn fossil fuels we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere creates a heat trapping blanket around the earth. This heat trapping blanket keeps the CO2 locked in the atmosphere which causes an upset in our climate. As we burn more fossil fuels we are seeing warmer waters, warmer air and more precipitation here in Rhode Island.
- Lobster shell rot (currently affecting about 30% of lobsters annually)
- Ocean acidification: Ocean acidification is a result of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas in our atmosphere that traps the sun’s heat, warming the earth. The ocean absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. However, this causes the ocean to become acidic, which can be harmful to ocean life. https://climatekids.nasa.gov/acid-ocean/
- Species shift: Less prevalence of winter flounder and cod, higher frequency of crustaceans… fisheries must adapt. Animals that are already close to their temperature threshold will be forced to move elsewhere.
- Intense coastal storms will damage shoreline property and beaches.
- Diamondback terrapin has suffered a loss of salt marsh habitat, and is now endangered in Rhode Island
Plastics and Trash
Plastics come in many forms: bottles and bottle caps, shopping bags, cups, lids, food wrappers and take-out containers, fishing line, utensils, diapers, dog waste bags, cigarette butts, packaging, balloons, and six-pack containers. They are ubiquitous in our modern consumer society. Littering on streets, as well as at beaches, fishing spots and public parks is all too common. Litter and inadequate trash disposal result in plastic bottles and food packaging landing in the street, where they are washed by rain into streams, rivers, and Narragansett Bay. Poorly maintained storm drain catch basins compound the problem.
The problem with plastics is that, unlike paper and glass, they do not biodegrade, but persist in the natural environment indefinitely. Discarded plastics are everywhere, and unfortunately, becoming increasingly difficult to clean up. Exposure to sunlight, water and wind breaks plastic down into tiny “micro plastics” that persist in the water column and are ingested by birds, fish, and—increasingly—humans.
The bright orange dot in the center of the body is called the madreporite. This organ pumps water into the sea star’s body. This pumping action creates suction at the end of hundreds of tube feet, located in paired rows on the underside of the arms.
Spider crabs have two claws that can pinch. Holding a spider crab by the top of its back will limit your chances of getting pinched.
Horseshoe crabs do not bite or sting. Despite the ferocious look of the tail, it is not used as a weapon. Instead, horseshoe crabs use their tails for righting themselves if they are flipped over by a wave.
Purple sea urchins are the most common urchin in Narragansett Bay. They have sharp spines that can cause small cuts if stepped on or held too tightly. They are not poisonous.
Yes! We have dogfish sharks in our Bay. They are small and harmless. We have some at our Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport, Rhode Island that you can actually pet!
Harbor Seals are wild animals and therefore need their space. Harbor seals show aggression by growling, snorting, and waving threateningly with a foreflipper. Another aggressive behavior is head-thrusting – sharp, rapid extension and retraction of the neck. Fighting is rare, except between competing males during the mating season.
Some species of urchins, especially in tropical water, are venomous and can inject venom through their spines. Thankfully, the sea urchins in our Bay are harmless.
U.S. fisheries are scientifically monitored, regionally managed, and legally enforced under 10 national standards of sustainability. Managing sustainable fisheries is a dynamic process that requires constant attention to new scientific information, so that management actions can adapt to changing ocean conditions.
Save The Bay works toward a sustainable Atlantic herring fishery.
Every year, more than 4,000 volunteers play a vital role in every aspect of Save The Bay’s work—from supporting special events and tackling beach cleanups to assisting administrative housekeeping, habitat adaptation and more. Without volunteers, we couldn’t accomplish all that we do to protect and improve Narragansett Bay. Whatever your interest, whatever your availability, chances are we have a volunteer opportunity to fit your needs!
How is life in Narragansett Bay affected by climate change ?
This rampant (or human produced) CO2 goes into our atmosphere, wraps around our planet sort of like a “heat trapping blanket”. This “heat trapping blanket effect” warms up our atmosphere and therefore our oceans in turn. Warmer temperatures then change the patterns of habitat usage globally for most marine and wildlife, spreads disease/invasive species, alters the delicate balance of the food webs, changes timing of natural events such as spawning and migration, makes certain regions of our planet uninhabitable for life that has existed there for sometimes millions of years and much more.
Our climate acts like our oceans heart, just like when our heart is not circulating blood in our body correctly we get sick, when our climate is not circulating liquids on our planet correctly there are many negative effects on life that rely on these circulation patterns. When water gets warmer it evaporates more quickly. This is happening with all water on our planet due to the heat trapping blanket effect, and this evaporated water is residing in our atmosphere for a time. As a result of this excess water in our atmosphere, there is much more water that is available to condense out of our atmosphere during weather events such as hurricanes, snow fall and rain. This causes more frequent hurricanes, increased flooding, longer and wetter wet periods in wet parts of our planet like New England and erosion. There is also longer and dryer dry periods in arid parts of our planet like California due to the increased evaporation rate. The change in temperatures in our oceans is also causing our oceans to have changing currents, for example the gulf stream current is slowing down, which effects life in our Bay and oceans.
As we produce more rampant CO2 our ocean absorbs it. Our oceans act like a carbon sponge, it’s really good at absorbing carbon. As our ocean absorbs more carbon it is becoming more acidic. Life in our planets oceans and bays rely on a constant pH of 8.3 and our planets oceans/bays have been becoming more acidic since the industrial revolution. This is causing anything with a calcium based shell or exoskeleton to have trouble absorbing calcium. When these life forms have trouble absorbing calcium they can become soft and vulnerable or even be unable to grow. It is kind of like osteoporosis in humans, which is when our bones become brittle due to a lack of calcium or vitamin d.
A unique property of water is that it expands when warm. This is also happening in our oceans due to the heat trapping blanket effect, and is the main reason sea levels are rising. As the sea levels rise higher in coastal locations, habitats that rely on a specific level of water, such as salt marshes, can be destroyed.
More resources are available at:
- Do not give up hope, people are innovative and hard working. All of the knowledge and technology exists to reverse the negative effects of climate change.
- Burn less fossil fuels.
- Use alternative energies such as solar and wind.
- Work with your community to help fix environmental issues.
- Vote to support policy that helps with the management issues associated with climate change.
- Support environmental organizations like Save The Bay!
- Explore our Bay-Friendly Living Guide
Questions about the Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium
- They are all found in Narragansett Bay by our team of aquarists and educators, local scientists and local fishermen.
- Some of the animals are rescued and would not be alive without our facility.
- Some animals are in our nursery program where we take them in as hatchlings, grow them larger for about a year, then release them back into the wild larger and stronger then when we found them.
- Some of them we breed and release.
- All of the animals here are on display and we educate the public about the importance they play in the Narragansett Bay ecosystem.
- Resources: https://www.savebay.org/
exploration-center-and- aquarium-sets-sights-on-the- future-of-narragansett-bay- this-december/
- Habitat loss due to climate change and habitat fragmentation
- Harmful effects of Climate change
- Historic over harvest and poaching
- Learn more at:
The types of sharks at our aquarium are various dogfish species from the Bay, and the ones we display as part of our breeding/nursery program are harmless. They have no sharp, tearing teeth like a predatory shark would. These types of sharks are primarily scavengers and use flat crushing plates in the backs of their jaw to help grind softer non-living food items.