Predicting impacts of ocean acidification on Northeast US shellfish

Project Status: This project began in January, 2012 and is projected to be completed in December, 2015

We are supporting an effort to predict ocean acidification impacts on northeast US shellfish. Results will project effects on survival, growth and reproduction for two species using a range of ocean acidification scenarios.

Why We Care

Shellfish are ecologically and commercially important. In the US, shellfish harvest and the ecosystem services they provide for coastal zones are valued in the billions of dollars annually. Recent research demonstrates degradation in the growth and survival of several species of shellfish in relation to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and subsequent acidification of oceans. Continued increases in the ocean’s acidity may have further negative impacts.

What We Are Doing

Two shellfish species are being studied: hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) and bay scallops (Argopecten irradians). These species are selected because they:

  • are commercially valuable,
  • are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification,
  • have different life histories, and
  • show different sensitivities to ocean acidification.

Population models will consider the survival, growth and reproduction of each species under various ocean acidification conditions.  Field surveys will be performed to measure ocean chemistry at different sites within Rhode Island and New York estuaries. This data will be combined with 100-yr carbon emission scenarios to assess impacts of ocean acidification.

This project is under the NCCOS Regional Ecosystem Prediction Program (REPP), and is supported by the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. The project is led by Dr. Christopher Gobler, Stony Brook University. Project partners include Drs. Janet Nye and Jason Grear at the Environmental Protection Agency and Kenneth Raposa at the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Benefits of Our Work

By modeling two species with contrasting life histories and ocean acidification susceptibilities combined with comprehensive mapping of water chemistry in estuaries, the resulting predictions will:

  • enhance development of adaptation and management plans for these and other bivalve fisheries,
  • provide guidance on sustainable harvest levels, and
  • identify regions of estuaries that are most vulnerable to extremes in acidification.

All information will be disseminated to regional shellfish and water quality managers through a workshop format.

Related Regions of Study: New York, Rhode Island

Primary Contact: Elizabeth Turner

Research Area: Climate Impacts (Impacts of Ocean Acidification)

Related NCCOS Center: CSCOR

NCCOS, March 2013. Project.

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