Implications of ocean acidification in the Pacific Arctic: Experimental responses of three Arctic bivalves to decreased pH and food availability

Recent sea ice retreat and seawater warming in the Pacific Arctic are physical changes that are impacting arctic biological communities. Recently, ocean acidification from increases in anthropogenic CO2 has been identified as an additional stressor, particularly to calcifying organisms like bivalves. These bivalves are common prey items for benthivorous predators such as Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), and diving seaducks, such as Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri) ( Moore et al. 2014). We investigated the effects of decreased pH and food availability on growth (% change in length and wet weight and allometric growth characterizations) and oxygen consumption (mg/L/hour) of three common Arctic bivalves, Macoma calcarea, Astarte montagui, and Astarte borealis. Two sets of experiments were run for seven and eleven weeks, exposing the bivalves to control (8.05 ± 0.02 and 8.19 ± 0.003, respectively) and acidified (7.76 ± 0.01 and 7.86 ± 0.01, respectively) pH treatments. Length, weight, and oxygen consumption were not significantly different among the varying treatments after the seven-week exposure and only one significant effect of decreased pH and one significant effect of decreased food availability were observed after the end of the eleven-week exposure. Specifically, shells of A. borealis displayed a decrease in length in response to decreased pH and M. calcarea showed a decrease in length in response to limited food. The negative effects of pH observed in the experiments on growth and oxygen consumption were small, suggesting that at least two of these species are generally resilient to decreasing pH.

Goethel C. L., Grebmeier J. M., Cooper L. W. & Miller T. J., in press. Implications of ocean acidification in the Pacific Arctic: Experimental responses of three Arctic bivalves to decreased pH and food availability. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. Article (subscription required).

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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