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Ocean Acidification May Contribute To Global Shellfish Decline

Relatively minor increases in ocean acidity brought about by high levels of carbon dioxide have significant detrimental effects on the growth, development, and survival of hard clams, bay scallops, and Eastern oysters, according to researchers at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

In one of the first studies looking at the effect of ocean acidification on shellfish, Stephanie Talmage, PhD candidate, and Professor Chris Gobler showed that the larval stages of these shellfish species are extremely sensitive to enhanced levels of carbon dioxide in seawater. A paper on their work is published online in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

During the past century the oceans absorbed nearly half of atmospheric carbon dioxide derived from human activities such as burning fossil fuels. As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide it becomes more acidic and has a lower concentration of carbonate, which shell-making organisms use to produce their calcium carbonate structures, such as the shells of shellfish.

In lab experiments, Talmage and Gobler examined the growth and survivorship of larvae from three species of commercially and ecologically valuable shellfish. They raised the larvae in containers bubbled with different levels of carbon dioxide in the range of concentrations that are projected to occur in the oceans during the 21st century (~66 Pa, 650 ppm) and beyond.

Under carbon dioxide concentrations estimated to occur later this century, clam and scallop larvae showed a more than 50% decline in survival. These larvae were also smaller and took longer to develop into the juvenile stage. Oysters also grew more slowly at this level of carbon dioxide, but their survival was only diminished at carbon dioxide levels expected next century.

The longer time spent in the larval stage is frightening on several levels. Shellfish larvae are free swimming. The more time they spend in the water column, the greater their risk of being eaten by a predator. A small change in the timing of the larval development could have a large effect on the number of larvae that survive to the juvenile stage and could dramatically alter the composition of the entire population.

—Stephanie Talmage

Although levels of carbon dioxide in marine environments will continue to rise during this century, organisms in some coastal zones are already exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide due to high levels of productivity and carbon input from sources on land.


  • Talmage, Stephanie C., and Christopher J. Gobler (2009) The effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations on the metamorphosis, size, and survival of larval hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria), bay scallops (Argopecten irradians), and Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(6), 2009, 2072–2080



"These observations once again suggest that the planet's rising atmospheric CO2 concentration may well stimulate oceanic primary production and thereby enable the sustaining of a greater population of higher-trophic-level marine organisms, many of which could ultimately end up on our dinner tables." Idsos CO2 Science

Egge, J.K, Thingstad, T.F., Larsen, A., Engel, A., Wohlers, J., Bellerby, R.G.J. and Riebesell, U. 2009. Primary production during nutrient-induced blooms at elevated CO2 concentrations. Biogeosciences 6: 877-885.


My "ranch" already has overly acidic soils. Remidy - tons of aglime.
Outfall from coal power stations is associated with vegetation dead zones.The prevailing winds and 100 odd kilometers distant places me in the predominant fallout zone.
I really don't need any more carbonic acid base solution for now, but thanks for the consideration.

As for Oceans very few eat the jellyfish that you refer to.
The global explosion of JF plagues are also very difficult to power craft through as they chop up and block cooing systems.


Idsos CO2 garbage site as a source for a garbage opinion. Blog science = distorted science.

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