Ocean Acidification Definitively Linked to Oyster Failure

The collapse of a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon has now been linked definitively to an increase in ocean acidification.

In a study done by Oregon State University researchers, they found that the increased corrosiveness of ocean water with elevated levels of carbon dioxide in it inhibited the growth and formation of the oyster larvae’s shells. And it stunted their growth to levels that are not economically viable.

The researchers think that this should serve as the canary in the coal mine for us — as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise in the coming years, the impacts on shellfish and other ocean ecosystems are likely to be enormous.

Commercial oyster production on the West Coast of North America currently generates around $273 million dollars of economic activity a year. Starting around 2007, the major hatcheries have been experiencing significant production losses that are now being tied to increased ocean water acidity. Wild stocks of oysters have been showing similar declines to the hatcheries.

oysters ocean acidityIncreased but non-lethal levels of acidity in the water have also been linked to stunted adult growth, also past the point of economic viability.

One of the coauthors of the study, Burke Hales is quoted as saying: “The predicted rise of atmospheric CO2 in the next two to three decades may push oyster larval growth past the break-even point in terms of production.”

Source: Oregon State University 
Image Credits: University of Gothenburg; NEFSC/NOAA; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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