Marine biology researchers found that climate change influences the health of shellfish by boosting the acidification of their environments through the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.
But scientists suggest that the phenomenon is still reversible if proper action is undertaken in due time. According to the new research there are plenty of methods of improving the situation since the general public is more aware than ever about the challenges of climate change.
Acidification affects the marine ecosystem as it never did before since oceans absorb nearly 25 percent of current CO2 emissions which by mixing with salty water create a carbonic acid.
This acid acts like a magnet for the calcium present in the ocean, so whenever carbonic acid exceeds a certain threshold the marine stock of calcium is severely affected depriving small bivalve mollusks such as mussels, oysters and scallops of a valuable mineral needed to build their hard shells.
Scientists explained that mollusks need nearly 48 hours to form their shells, but in a calcium-deprived environment the process may take more than that or even partially fail. Severe changes in shell structure were reported by the owners of shellfish farms who are now struggling to fight the phenomenon.
Still, authors of the finding underlined that oceanic acidification doesn’t have a unique cause. Beside CO2 emissions, marine currents also carry highly acidic water from the depths of the oceans to the surface. But winds and marine currents can be severely accelerated by a constant warming of the ocean. So, climate change does play a role here, although indirectly.
Additional sources of acidic water are rivers which feed seas and oceans with fresh water brought from the land, as well as the excessive amount of inland nutrients that reach estuaries where shellfish grow.
Scientists warned that they find alarming levels of acidification in 16 out of 23 shellfish nurseries along the U.S. coastal region with ten regions having more than one cause of acidification.
Shellfish farmers have already started to fight the phenomenon either by trying to keep the additional inflow of acidic water away from their shellfish pens or by introducing impressive amounts of lime to the water to tackle its acidity.
For natural growing shellfish, scientists plan to recycle crushed shells as a source of calcium for new colonies.
However, the team believes that without political action the acidification will continue to escalate leaving tens of thousands of people working in the shellfish industry jobless.
Image Source: Telegraph.co.uk