Scientist studies the impact of ocean acidification on the Gulf of Maine

Dr. Mark Green spends his summers in the mud of Maine’s coastal areas, researching the fate of larval bivalves, also called spat.

What he’s found isn’t encouraging. The mud in some places along Maine’s coast is so acidic that spat risk dissolving if they try to settle. While that’s bad news for bivalves, it provides valuable insight into what scientists can expect from ocean acidification.



Scientists have reported a decline in the pH of the world’s oceans from 8.2 during pre-industrial times to 8.1 today-a slight drop that represents a dramatic increase in acidity. Carbon dioxide lies at the root of this change. “Atmospheric CO2 is a main cause of ocean acidification, but the coastal mud is acidifying as a result of other human activities too,” said Green, a marine science professor at St. Joseph’s College in Maine. “It’s also happening through increased nutrient loads in runoff, which adds carbon dioxide to the mud, and the removal of buffers that the clams need to survive.”

Sewage, fertilizer and soil erosion contribute to higher acidity in coastal waters by promoting algal blooms. When the blooms die off, the plankton sink to the bottom and decompose, producing carbon dioxide in the process. When carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or from decomposing organic matter mixes with seawater, it reacts to form carbonic acid-a weak acid that reacts with other molecules found in the water. One such molecule is the carbonate ion, which is critical to shell-building marine organisms, and is the reason ocean acidification poses such a threat to bivalves and other marine life.

Green’s research sites now have pH levels below what’s projected for ocean waters 50 years from now, making them excellent case studies. The sites are in inter-tidal mud flats in West Bath and South Portland.

“Acidification in the ocean is going to be a slow and steady progression,” says Green. “In major estuaries like Casco Bay and the Chesapeake, however, the changes will occur on a much faster time scale. That makes them the best naturally-occurring conditions to study the effects of ocean acidification.”

Peter Mcdougall, The Working Waterfront, 7 October 2009. Full article.

3 Responses to “Scientist studies the impact of ocean acidification on the Gulf of Maine”


  1. 1 Peter McDougall 11 October 2009 at 21:27

    A little uncool that you’re putting your name under the title as if this was your title and your byline when you’ve just cut and pasted sections from the original piece. Even if you did insert a link to the full article at the bottom. If you’re reposting it, don’t use your own byline under the title unless your going to at least try to intro it or write some original content.

    • 2 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 13 October 2009 at 07:47

      Thank you for your comment. This blog is managed on the WordPress.com blogging platform which puts the name of the person who posts an article under the title. I do not know how to do otherwise and thought that this is not an issue as the posts always provide full attribution, with the name of original author, the title of the journal or magazine when applicable, and the link to the original article. If you are familiar with WordPress, let me know how the name of the person posting the blog can be omitted; I will happily make the change. In the mean time, I hope that you nevertheless find this blog useful.

  2. 3 makaimauka 22 October 2009 at 17:16

    I’m not sure how to change that either. In perusing more of the blog, I see that it is essentially a manual aggregator of ocean acidification-related stories and research. In that sense, I think it provides a very useful tool. The way many other blogs get around this issue is by posting a very brief, often one sentence intro to the piece, and then use formatting (shaded paragraphs or narrower margins) to indicate that what follows are excerpts from the original piece.
    I can see how this would become time consuming and even redundant given that all of these posts are essentially highlights and links.
    I co-write a blog with a colleague using the WordPress platform, and our posts don’t include the name of the poster. It’s possible that it’s because we selected user types as “contributor” and “administrator” and not “author”.


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