The future of oysters (audio)

Increasing levels of acidity in our oceans could have a serious impact on the oyster industry.


Burning fossil fuels releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. That not only influences our climate, but has other side effects that impact regions like Chesapeake Bay and all the world’s oceans. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Kuhn: One of the main reasons why oceans are becoming more acidic is because of CO2 that’s been released into the atmosphere and gets deposited into the ocean.

Dave Kuhn has been studying the effects of ocean acidity on the oyster industry, which generates millions of dollars in Chesapeake Bay and other coastal areas.

Kuhn: One of the primary issues that the oyster hatcheries could be facing is ocean acidification. That is where the oceans are more acidic than they were before. And under acidic conditions, it’s more difficult for the oysters to form shells; and the lower the acidity, the better they can form their shells.
There is evidence in various places that the ocean is becoming more acidic, and especially where they have monitoring stations where they can track the ocean acidity over time. And one thing we’re looking to do is to start tracking the ocean acidity levels at these hatcheries.

One thing we’ve found with the oysters is the adult oysters are pretty tolerant to ocean acidification. It’s the young oysters that have a lot of issues. And so, if we’re talking about oyster hatcheries, we can try to develop ways to combat or to offset the acidic ocean waters to make it more favorable for oyster larvae to become adults.

One solution might be adding Calcium Carbonate, limestone, into the waters around hatcheries to lower the water’s acidity, helping the young oysters to grow their shells. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.

Pulse of the Planet, 20 November 2017. Audio.

1 Response to “The future of oysters (audio)”

  1. 1 Lina Hansson 21 November 2017 at 14:42

    Note that the terminology used in this article is misleading. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7″. Despite the process of ocean acidification, the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, “acid” or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents or in purposeful perturbation experiments.

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