Skip to main content

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher.

In the face of existential emergencies to humanity, Common Dreams is facing other potentially fatal threats to our funding model. Please support our nonprofit journalism and help us reach our $75,000 Mid-Year Campaign goal.

'Normal' is killing us.

Donald Trump is out of the White House. COVID-19 is fading, at least in wealthier nations. The world, they say, is returning to “normal.” That’s the narrative that the corporate media is selling. But there’s a problem: “normal” is destroying our planet, threatening our democracies, concentrating massive wealth in a tiny elite, and leaving billions of people without access to life-saving vaccines amid a deadly pandemic. Here at Common Dreams, we refuse to accept any of this as “normal.” Common Dreams just launched our Mid-Year Campaign to make sure we have the funding we need to keep the progressive, independent journalism of Common Dreams alive. Whatever you can afford—no amount is too large or too small—please donate today to support our nonprofit, people-powered journalism and help us meet our goal.

Please select a donation method:

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

"In our studies, we have come across mass kills of federal fish species during the summer drought season as small streams dry up," said Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor at the University of California. (Photo: Bruno de Giusti/Wikimedia/cc)

"In our studies, we have come across mass kills of federal fish species during the summer drought season as small streams dry up," said Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor at the University of California. (Photo: Bruno de Giusti/Wikimedia/cc)

Mass Die-Offs of Birds and Fish Increasing In Frequency and Magnitude: Study

'One additional mass mortality event per year over 70 years translates into a considerable increase in the number of these events being reported each year'

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Mass die-offs of birds, fish, and marine invertebrates have grown increasingly frequent and severe, hiking at a rate of approximately one major mortality event per year over the past seven decades, according to a new study published by Yale, UC Berkeley, and University of San Diego researchers.

"While this might not seem like much, one additional mass mortality event per year over 70 years translates into a considerable increase in the number of these events being reported each year," said study co-lead author Adam Siepielski, an assistant professor of biology at the University of San Diego, in a statement about the study, which was published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Going from one event to 70 each year is a substantial increase, especially given the increased magnitudes of mass mortality events for some of these organisms, Siepielski added.

The researchers define mass mortality events as "rapidly occurring catastrophic demographic events" that eliminate more than 90 percent of a population, kill more than a billion animals, or produce "700 million tons of dead biomass in a single event." For the study, they evaluated 727 mass die-offs of almost 2,500 animal species since 1940.

"This is the first attempt to quantify patterns in the frequency, magnitude and cause of such mass kill events," said study senior author Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

The researchers concluded that, even when they account for improvements in reporting such mass die-off events, there is still an increase for birds, fish, and marine invertebrates.

Disease is responsible for 26 percent of such die-offs, making it the number one cause over the past 70 years. Direct human impact on the environment, including contamination, comes in a close second at 19 percent. Furthermore, a report summary notes, "Biotoxicity triggered by events such as algae blooms accounted for a significant proportion of deaths, and processes directly influenced by climate — including weather extremes, thermal stress, oxygen stress or starvation — collectively contributed to about 25 percent of mass mortality events."

According to the study, the mass kill events of the greatest magnitude "were those that resulted from multiple stressors, starvation, and disease."

Carlson explained, "In our studies, we have come across mass kills of federal fish species during the summer drought season as small streams dry up. The majority of studies we reviewed were of fish. When oxygen levels are depressed in the water column, the impact can affect a variety of species."

However, the report concludes that mass die-offs involving mammals appear to be unchanged, while the frequency of such events with respect to reptiles and amphibians appears to be decreasing.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Support progressive journalism.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal a 'Disaster in the Making'

"Communities across the country have been ripped off by public-private schemes that enrich corporations and Wall Street investors and leave the rest of us to pick up the tab."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'We Must Not Stand Down': 270+ Arrested at Anti-Logging Protests in Canada

A battle over old-growth forests is raging in British Columbia.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


US Lawmakers Demand EU 'Do the Right Thing or Get Out of the Way' on Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waivers

"A global recovery requires a global response based on health needs—not Big Pharma," said Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García at a rally.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


'Horrible and Unconscionable Betrayal': Biden DOJ Backs Trump Line 3 Approval

"You are siding with a handful of corrupt corporate elites over honoring treaty rights, climate, water, and the future of life on Earth."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'We Can't Wait': Thousands in DC Demand Bold Action on Climate, Immigration, and Jobs

"All of us have got to stand together and tell the billionaire class that our time is now," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·