Shell stuff: monitoring the health of California’s oysters amid climate change

Endangered black abalone receive an aromatic spa treatment while hundreds of baby oysters float in tiny cages next to winding strands of seagrass, their growth tracked and measured by resident ecologists.

In the world of shelled invertebrates, researchers handle their subjects carefully, especially the babies who are hypersensitive to change and tend to die quickly and without warning, a habit that make them more difficult to study than their more resilient parents.

As these shelled creatures grow, researchers measure their shells, record water chemistry, and take pictures, searching for clues and patterns that will help resolve mysteries about the health of shells and changing ocean environments.

What do these marine invertebrates need to survive in changing ocean conditions? And what is the role of science in rebounding or preparing their populations for the future?

I caught up with Bodega Marine lab ecologists, research scientists and technicians to learn more.

Ph.D. ecologist Aurora Ricart works closely with the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research Group (BOAR), to gather data to answer this question:

Does the presence of seagrass reduce or increase the pH level of the water where it grows? And if so, how does this affect the growth of calcifiers, shellfish that use carbonate and calcium ions dissolved in seawater to build strong shells and skeletons?

Rebecca Fanning, Medill Reports Chicago, 17 May 2018. Full article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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