Can variable pH and low oxygen moderate ocean acidification outcomes for mussel larvae?

Natural variation and changing climate in coastal oceans subject meroplanktonic organisms to broad ranges of pH and oxygen ([O2]) levels. In controlled laboratory experiments we explored the interactive effects of pH, [O2], and semidiurnal pH fluctuations on the survivorship, development and size of early life stages of two mytilid mussels, Mytilus californianus and M. galloprovincialis. Survivorship of larvae was unaffected by low pH, low [O2] or semidiurnal fluctuations for both mytilid species. Low pH (< 7.6) resulted in delayed transition from the trochophore to veliger stage, but this effect of low pH was absent when incorporating semidiurnal fluctuations in both species. Also at low pH, larval shells were smaller and had greater variance; this effect was absent when semidiurnal fluctuations of 0.3 units were incorporated at low pH for M. galloprovincialis but not for M. californianus. Low [O2] in combination with low pH had no effect on larval development and size indicating that early life stages of mytilid mussels are largely tolerant to a broad range of [O2] reflective of their environment (80 – 260 μmol kg−1). The role of pH variability should be recognized as an important feature in coastal oceans that has the capacity to modulate the effects of ocean acidification on biological responses.

Frieder C. A., Gonzalez J. P., Bockmon E. E., Navarro M. O., Levin L. A., in press. Can variable pH and low oxygen moderate ocean acidification outcomes for mussel larvae? Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

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