Ocean warming and acidification affect the nutritional quality of the commercially-harvested turbinid snail Turbo militaris


• Turbo flesh proximate composition was unaffected by ocean warming or acidification.
• The relative proportion of saturated fatty acids increased with elevated temperature.
• Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids including EPA decreased at higher temperatures.
• Zinc increased under ocean warming but other elements in the flesh were unaffected.


Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are driving ocean warming and acidification. This could cause stress resulting in decreases in nutritional quality of marine species for human consumption, if environmental changes go beyond the optimal range for harvested species. To evaluate this, we used ambient and near-future elevated temperatures and pCO2 to assess impacts on the proximate nutritional composition (moisture, ash, protein, and lipids), fatty acids and trace elements of the foot tissue of Turbo militaris, a commercially harvested marine snail from south-eastern Australia. In a fully orthogonal design, the snails were exposed to ambient seawater conditions (22 ± 0.2 °C, pH 8.13 ± 0.01–450 μatm pCO2), ocean warming (25 ± 0.05 °C), pCO2 ocean acidification (pH 7.85 ± 0.02, ∼880 μatm pCO2) or a combination of both in controlled flow-through seawater mesocosms for 38 days. Moisture, ash, protein and total lipid content of the foot tissue in the turban snails was unaffected by ocean warming or acidification. However, ocean warming caused a reduction in healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) relative to saturated fatty acids (SFA). Under future warming and acidification conditions, there was a significant 3–5% decrease in n–3 fatty acids, which contributed to a decrease in the n–3/n–6 fatty acid ratio. The decrease in n–3 PUFAs, particularly Eicopentanoic acid (EPA), is a major negative outcome from ocean warming, because higher n–3/n–6 ratios in seafood are desirable for human health. Furthermore, ocean warming was found to increase levels of zinc in the tissues. Calcium, iron, macroelements, microelements and the composition of toxic elements did not appear to be affected by ocean climate change. Overall, the major impact from ocean climate change on seafood quality is likely to be a decrease in healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids at higher temperatures.

Lah R. A., Kelaher B. P., Bucher D. & Benkendorff K., in press. Ocean warming and acidification affect the nutritional quality of the commercially-harvested turbinid snail Turbo militaris. Marine Environmental Research. Article (subscription required).

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