Biomonitoring acidification using marine gastropods

Highlights

• Data loggers offer limited coverage of acidification in marine ecosystems.

• Intertidal water pH was reflected in organismal attributes of gastropods.

• Shell surface erosion presents a clear estimate of corrosive water exposure.

• Gastropod biomonitoring can identify coastal areas of more or lesser acidification.

Abstract

Ocean acidification is mainly being monitored using data loggers which currently offer limited coverage of marine ecosystems. Here, we trial the use of gastropod shells to monitor acidification on rocky shores. Animals living in areas with highly variable pH (8.6–5.9) were compared with those from sites with more stable pH (8.6–7.9). Differences in site pH were reflected in size, shape and erosion patterns in Nerita chamaeleon and Planaxis sulcatus. Shells from acidified sites were shorter, more globular and more eroded, with both of these species proving to be good biomonitors. After an assessment of baseline weathering, shell erosion can be used to indicate the level of exposure of organisms to corrosive water, providing a tool for biomonitoring acidification in heterogeneous intertidal systems. A shell erosion ranking system was found to clearly discriminate between acidified and reference sites. Being spatially-extensive, this approach can identify coastal areas of greater or lesser acidification. Cost-effective and simple shell erosion ranking is amenable to citizen science projects and could serve as an early-warning-signal for natural or anthropogenic acidification of coastal waters.

Marshall D. J., Abdelhady A. A., Wah D. T. T., Mustapha N., Godeke S. H., De Silva L. C. & Hall-Spencer J. M., in press. Biomonitoring acidification using marine gastropods. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required).

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book