Mussels and their harvesting threatened by ocean acidification

The Guardian, 24th December 2014, reports: The world’s mussel population could be under threat as climate change causes the oceans to become more acidic, scientists have warned.

Mussel shells become more brittle when they are formed in more acidic water, Glasgow University has reported in the Royal Society journal Interface.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the oceans to become more acidic and reduces the concentration of the minerals mussels need to generate their shells, according to scientists.

However, they also found that mussels may have an in-built biological defence mechanism which boosts shell development when water temperatures rise by 2°C.

Dr Fitzer said: “What we’ve found in the lab is that increased levels of acidification in their habitats have a negative impact on mussels’ ability to create their shells.

“We worked with colleagues in our School of Engineering to examine the toughness of the shells of the mussels in the more acidic water against those in control conditions.

“What we found was that the calcite outer shells of the mussels past a certain threshold of acidity was stiffer and harder, making it more brittle and prone to fracture under pressure, and the aragonite inner shell became softer.”

The shellfish industry is worth more than £250m a year to the UK economy with a large part accounted for by mussels and oysters, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reported in 2012.

Mussels contribute around £7m to the Scottish economy alone, with other shellfish accounting for £1.4m, according to the Scottish Government’s marine atlas, published in 2011.
Source: The Guardian, 24th December 2014. For the full text, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/24/acidic-oceans-threaten-worlds-mussel-populations-climate-change


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