Effects of co-varying diel-cycling hypoxia and pH on growth in the juvenile eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica

Shallow water provides important habitat for many species, but also exposes these organisms to daily fluctuations in dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH caused by cycles in the balance between photosynthesis and respiration that can contribute to repeated, brief periods of hypoxia and low pH (caused by elevated pCO2). The amplitude of these cycles, and the severity and duration of hypoxia and hypercapnia that result, can be increased by eutrophication, and are predicted to worsen with climate change. We conducted laboratory experiments to test the effects of both diel-cycling and constant low DO and pH (elevated pCO2) on growth of the juvenile eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), an economically and ecologically important estuarine species. Severe diel-cycling hypoxia (to 0.5 mg O2 L-1) reduced shell growth in juvenile oysters, as did constant hypoxia (1.2 and 2.0 mg O2 L-1), although effects varied among experiments, oyster ages, and exposure durations. Diel-cycling pH reduced growth only in experiments in which calcite saturation state cycled to ≤0.10 and only during the initial weeks of these experiments. In other cases, cycling pH sometimes led to increased growth rates. Comparisons of treatment effects across multiple weeks of exposure, and during a longer post-experiment field deployment, indicated that juvenile oysters can acclimate to, and in some cases compensate for initial reductions in growth. As a result, some ecosystem services dependent on juvenile oyster growth rates may be preserved even under severe cycling hypoxia and pH.

Keppel A. G., Breitburg D. L. & Burrell R. B., 2016. Effects of co-varying diel-cycling hypoxia and pH on growth in the juvenile eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0161088. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161088. Article.


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