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NCCOS Research Project

Predicting Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Northeast U.S. Shellfish

Primary Contact(s): elizabeth.turner@noaa.gov
This project began in January 2012 and was completed in December 2015

We are supporting an effort to predict the effects ocean acidification will have on northeast U.S. shellfish. We will make projections on survival, growth, and reproduction for two species, using a range of ocean acidification scenarios.

Why We Care
Shellfish are ecologically and commercially important. In the U.S., shellfish harvest and the ecosystem services shellfish provide for coastal zones are valued in the billions of dollars annually. Recent research demonstrates degradation in the growth and survival of several species of shellfish in relation to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and subsequent acidification of oceans. Continued increases in the ocean’s acidity may have further negative impacts.

What We Are Doing
We are studying two shellfish species: hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) and bay scallops (Argopecten irradians). We selected these species because they:

  • are commercially valuable,
  • are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification,
  • have different life histories, and
  • show different sensitivities to ocean acidification.

We will use population models to consider the survival, growth, and reproduction of each species under various ocean acidification conditions and conduct field surveys to measure ocean chemistry at different sites within Rhode Island and New York estuaries. We will combine these data with 100-yr carbon emission scenarios to assess the impacts of ocean acidification.

This project is under the NCCOS Regional Ecosystem Prediction Program (REPP), and is supported by the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. The project is led by Dr. Christopher Gobler, Stony Brook University. Project partners include Drs. Janet Nye and Jason Grear at the Environmental Protection Agency and Kenneth Raposa at the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Benefits of Our Work
By modeling two species with contrasting life histories and ocean acidification susceptibilities combined with comprehensive mapping of water chemistry in estuaries, the resulting predictions will:

  • enhance development of adaptation and management plans for these and other bivalve fisheries,
  • provide guidance on sustainable harvest levels, and
  • identify regions of estuaries that are most vulnerable to extremes in acidification.

All information will be disseminated to regional shellfish and water quality managers through a workshop format.

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