Interactive effects of acidification, hypoxia, and thermal stress on growth, respiration, and survival of four North Atlantic bivalves

We investigated the individual and interactive effects of coastal and climate change stressors (elevated temperatures, acidification, and hypoxia) on the growth, survival, and respiration rates of 4 commercially and ecologically important North Atlantic bivalves: bay scallops Argopecten irradians, Eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica, blue mussels Mytilus edulis, and hard clams Mercenaria mercenaria. Month-long experiments were performed on multiple cohorts of post-set juveniles using conditions commonly found during summer months within eutrophied, shallow, temperate, coastal environments (24-31°C; 2-7 mg O2 l-1; pHT, total scale, 7.2-8.0). Elevated temperatures most consistently altered the performance of the bivalves, with both positive and negative physiological consequences. Low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH individually reduced the survival, shell growth, and/or tissue weight of each bivalve, with A. irradians being the most vulnerable species. Low DO also significantly increased respiration rates of A. irradians and M. mercenaria, evidencing a compensatory physiological response to hypoxia. M. edulis and M. mercenaria both displayed size-dependent vulnerability to acidification, with smaller individuals being more susceptible. The combination of low DO and low pH often interacted antagonistically to yield growth rates higher than would be predicted from either individual stressor, potentially suggesting that some anaerobic metabolic pathways may function optimally under hypercapnia. Elevated temperature and low pH interacted both antagonistically and synergistically, producing outcomes that could not be predicted from the responses to individual stressors. Collectively, this study revealed species- and size-specific vulnerabilities of bivalves to coastal stressors along with unpredicted interactions among those stressors.

Stevens A. M. & Gobler C. J., 2018. Interactive effects of acidification, hypoxia, and thermal stress on growth, respiration, and survival of four North Atlantic bivalves. Marine Ecology Progress Series 604: 143-161. Article.

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