Moderate seawater acidification does not elicit long-term metabolic depression in the blue mussel Mytilus edulis

Marine organisms are exposed to increasingly acidic oceans, as a result of equilibration of surface ocean water with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In this study, we examined the physiological response of Mytilus edulis from the Baltic Sea, grown for 2 months at 4 seawater pCO2 levels (39, 113, 243 and 405 Pa/385, 1,120, 2,400 and 4,000 μatm). Shell and somatic growth, calcification, oxygen consumption and excretion rates were measured in order to test the hypothesis whether exposure to elevated seawater pCO2 is causally related to metabolic depression. During the experimental period, mussel shell mass and shell-free dry mass (SFDM) increased at least by a factor of two and three, respectively. However, shell length and shell mass growth decreased linearly with increasing pCO2 by 6–20 and 10–34%, while SFDM growth was not significantly affected by hypercapnia. We observed a parabolic change in routine metabolic rates with increasing pCO2 and the highest rates (+60%) at 243 Pa. excretion rose linearly with increasing pCO2. Decreased O:N ratios at the highest seawater pCO2 indicate enhanced protein metabolism which may contribute to intracellular pH regulation. We suggest that reduced shell growth under severe acidification is not caused by (global) metabolic depression but is potentially due to synergistic effects of increased cellular energy demand and nitrogen loss.

Thomsen J. and Melzner F., in press. Moderate seawater acidification does not elicit long-term metabolic depression in the blue mussel Mytilus edulis. Marine Biology. Article (subscription required).

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