Combined effects of seawater acidification and salinity changes in Ruditapes philippinarum

Due to human activities, predictions for the coming years indicate increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (rainy and drought periods) and pollution levels, leading to salinity shifts and ocean acidification. Therefore, several authors have assessed the effects of seawater salinity shifts and pH decrease on marine bivalves, but most of the studies evaluated the impacts of both factors independently. Since pH and salinity may act together in the environment, and their impacts may differ from their effects when acting alone, there is an urgent need to increase our knowledge when these environmental changes act in combination. Thus, the present study assessed the effects of seawater acidification and salinity changes, both acting alone and in combination, on the physiological (condition index, Na and K concentrations) and biochemical (oxidative stress related biomarkers) performance of R. philippinarum. For that, specimens of R. philippinarum were exposed for 28 days to the combination of different pH levels (7.8 and 7.3) and salinities (14, 28 and 35). The results obtained showed that under control pH (7.8) and low salinity (14) the physiological status and biochemical performance of clams was negatively affected, revealing oxidative stress. However, under the same pH but at salinities 28 and 35 clams were able to maintain/regulate their physiological status and biochemical performance. Moreover, our findings showed that clams under low pH (7.3) and different salinities were able to maintain their physiological status and biochemical performance, suggesting that the low pH tested may mask the negative effects of salinity. Our results further demonstrated that, in general, at each salinity, similar physiological and biochemical responses were found in clams under both tested pH levels. Also, individuals under low pH (salinities 14, 28 and 25) and exposed to pH 7.8 and salinity 28 (control) tend to present a similar response pattern. These results indicate that pH may have less impact on clams than salinity. Thus, our findings point out that the predicted increase of CO2 in seawater and consequently seawater acidification will have fewer impacts on physiological and biochemical performance of R. philippinarum clams than salinity shifts.

Velez C., Figueira E., Soares A. M. V. M. & Freitas R., in press. Combined effects of seawater acidification and salinity changes in Ruditapes philippinarum. Aquatic Toxicolog. Article (subscription required).

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