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Changing Chesapeake Bay acidity impacting oyster shell growth
Date:6/10/2010

Cambridge, Md. (June 10, 2010) Acidity is increasing in some regions of the Chesapeake Bay even faster than is occurring in the open ocean, where it is now recognized that increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolve in the seawater thereby making it more acidic. These more acidic conditions in key parts of Chesapeake Bay reduce rates of juvenile oyster shell formation, according to new research published in the journal Estuaries and Coasts. The study, conducted at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, examined 23 years of water quality data and concluded that significant trends in acidity will have mixed impacts on juvenile oyster growth, with some areas becoming more acidic and others more alkaline.

"The regional changes in acidity revealed in our analysis are greater than what could be caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide alone," said lead author Dr. George Waldbusser of Oregon State University. "We are seeing a complex pattern of increasing acidity in the more saline regions of the Bay, but the opposite trend of decreasing acidity in the less saline waters of the Bay."

"Current average pH values in intermediate salinity waters of the Chesapeake Bay were found in our laboratory studies to decrease rates of shell formation leading to thinner shells of our native oyster," said marine biologist Dr. Roger Newell of the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory. "With oyster populations already at historically low levels, increasingly acidic waters are yet another stressor limiting the recovery of the Bay's oyster populations." In other recent research Newell and colleagues have shown that thinner shells render juvenile oysters increasingly vulnerable to crab predation.

Ms. Erin Voigt, who worked on this project in Dr. Waldbusser's lab at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory for her senior undergraduate thesis research at St. Mary's College of Maryland noted, "The complex response of oyster
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Contact: Christopher Conner
cconner@umces.edu
443-496-0095
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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