Spatiotemporal variability of pH in coastal waters of New Brunswick (Canada) and potential consequences for oyster aquaculture

There is a void in the knowledge of the acidification status of Eastern Canada’s coastal waters. This knowledge is crucial to evaluating the threats posed to marine life, particularly oyster farming, a flagship of New Brunswick seafood production. In this study, we measured the temporal variability of pH and related environmental parameters in three bays of Northeastern New Brunswick. We also evaluated the potential impact of the observed pH levels on the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin, 1791), based on the available literature on this species’ sensitivity to acidification. We investigated the presence of inherent cycles of pH with the Fourier transform and the spectral filtering technique. Our results show that pH is highly variable in the studied area, with values ranging from 7.31 to 8.90. A seasonal effect was apparent, as the pH fluctuations were set at the lowest level in winter when the cover of ice and snow on the bay was present. The spectral analysis revealed a clear semidiurnal tidal pattern of pH, this variable being inversely related to the water level in summer and directly related to it in winter. The spectral subtraction of all the tidal components allowed the detection of a circadian rhythm that was not in pace with the alternation between day and night but rather slowly drifted so that the pH troughs occurred at night during the full moon period. Short periodicities of circa 8 and 6 h also existed in two of the three bays. Based on current knowledge of C. virginica’s sensitivity to acidification, this species’ recruitment, growth, and survival are unlikely to be impacted by the present pH levels in the studied area. However, further acidification might overcome the resilience of C. virginica, especially that of the larvae that are produced during the winter in commercial hatcheries.

Mayrand E. & Benhafid Z., 2023. Spatiotemporal variability of pH in coastal waters of New Brunswick (Canada) and potential consequences for oyster aquaculture. Anthropocene Coasts 6: 14. doi: 10.1007/s44218-023-00029-3. Article.

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