Effects of semidiurnal water column acidification and sediment presence on growth and survival of the bivalve Mya arenaria

In coastal environments, water column pH is affected by a variety of factors that result in lower and more variable pH in comparison to the open ocean. Consequently, it is critical to integrate variability in pH into laboratory experiments to better predict the response of coastal organisms to ocean acidification. For infaunal organisms, sediment can provide refuge from the water column conditions especially in coastal environments. As such, understanding how both water column conditions and the potential buffering abilities of sediment interact can provide insight into how infaunal organisms may respond to future oceanic conditions. Effects of pH variability on juvenile soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria; 2–11 mm in shell length), an ecologically and economically important species in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, were examined in a laboratory experiment. We manipulated pH through the addition of CO2 to seawater and exposed M. arenaria to three water treatments, no CO2 addition (mean ± sd; pH = 7.95 ± 0.06), semidiurnal intermittent CO2 addition (“on” pH =7.70 ± 0.13, “off” pH = 7.90 ± 0.11), and constant CO2 addition (pH = 7.73 ± 0.13). We found that M. arenaria final shell length, three mass metrics, and survival were negatively impacted by the constant CO2 addition treatment. Growth of juvenile M. arenaria only occurred in the presence of sediment, indicating the importance of sediment to M. arenaria, although sediment did not buffer the effects of constant CO2 addition. In the presence of sediment, the semidiurnal intermittent CO2 addition treatment did not negatively impact the growth of M. arenaria, indicating that it provided the clams with a recovery period. The similar growth rates of juvenile M. arenaria burrowed in sediment in the intermittent CO2 addition and control treatments suggests that M. arenaria may not be as negatively affected by future oceanic conditions as anticipated. This study demonstrated that pH variability can alter the response of benthic invertebrates to CO2 addition and thus this type of approach should be used to study other species of invertebrates.

McGarrigle S. A. & Hunt H. L., 2023. Effects of semidiurnal water column acidification and sediment presence on growth and survival of the bivalve Mya arenaria. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 562: 151872. doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2023.151872. Article.

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