The effects of intermittent exposure to low pH and oxygen conditions on survival and growth of juvenile red abalone

Exposure of nearshore animals to hypoxic, low pH waters upwelled from below the continental shelf and advected near the coast may be stressful to marine organisms and lead to impaired physiological performance. We mimicked upwelling conditions in the laboratory and tested the effect of fluctuating exposure to water with low pH and/or low oxygen levels on the mortality and growth of juvenile red abalone (Haliotis rufescens, shell length 5–10 mm). Mortality rates of juvenile abalone exposed to low pH (7.5, total scale) and low O2 (40% saturation, 5 mg L−1) conditions for periods of 3 to 6 h every 3–5 days over 2 weeks did not differ from those exposed to control conditions (O2: 100% saturation, 12 mg L−1; pH 8.0). However, when exposure was extended to 24 h repeated twice over a 15 day period, juveniles experienced higher mortality in the low oxygen treatments compared to control conditions, regardless of pH levels (pH 7.5 vs. 8.0). Growth rates were reduced significantly when juveniles were exposed to low pH or low oxygen treatments and the growth was lowest when low pH exposure was combined with low O2. Furthermore, individual variation of growth rate increased when they were exposed to low pH and low O2 conditions. These results indicate that prolonged exposure to low oxygen levels is detrimental for the survival of red abalone, whereas both pH and oxygen is a crucial factor for their growth. However, given the higher individual variation in growth rate, they may have an ability to adapt to extended exposure to upwelling conditions.

Kim T. W., Barry J. P. & Micheli F., 2013. The effects of intermittent exposure to low pH and oxygen conditions on survival and growth of juvenile red abalone. Biogeosciences Discussions 10: 3559-3576. Article.


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