Re­searchers look into acid­i­fi­ca­tion in Ch­e­sa­peake Bay

The Enterprise - - News - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

Sci­en­tists are ex­am­in­ing how ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion in­ter­plays with es­tu­ar­ies like the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, a process that could put shell­fish at greater risk.

World­wide, sea­wa­ter is be­com­ing more acidic as it ab­sorbs an in­creas­ing amount of car­bon diox­ide. Ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion has been a con­cern for many as it posts a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on ma­rine life, com­mer­cial fish­ery and the liveli­hoods of those who de­pend on it.

In a study pub­lished this week, a group of 16 sci­en­tists from seven uni­ver­si­ties and in­sti­tu­tions looked into ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion and nu­tri­ent load­ing, and their in­ter­ac­tions within the bay.

In gen­eral, acid­i­fi­ca­tion is bad news for shell­fish, be­cause it re­duces mol­lusks’ abil­ity to build their shells.

Also, if the pH in the wa­ter be­comes too low, mean­ing more acidic, that could af­fect the op­er­a­tion of a hatch­ery that grows oys­ter lar­vae, said Jeffrey Corn­well, a re­search pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence based at Horn Point Lab­o­ra­tory.

Con­sid­er­ing the amount of in­vest­ment put in projects like oys­ter restora­tion, Corn­well said the im­pact of acid­i­fi­ca­tion on shell­fish is the big­gest con­cern.

The study’s lead au­thor, Wei-Jun Cai, a Uni­ver­sity of Delaware pro­fes­sor, said in large es­tu­ar­ies like the Ch­e­sa­peake, the com­bined en­vi­ron­men­tal and climate change stres­sors make the bay more vul­ner­a­ble, and the ex­cess nu­tri­ents and in­crease in acid­ity may take a larger toll.

“Ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion is hap­pen­ing, but how that process is go­ing to play out with es­tu­ar­ies is less clear,” said Jeremy Testa, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence based at Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory in Solomons.

“Ev­ery summer, in the bay’s deep wa­ter, there’s a re­duc­tion in pH,” mean­ing the wa­ter be­comes more acidic, Testa said. But the an­swer of if there’s acid­i­fi­ca­tion in the bay “de­pends on where and when you look.”

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have in­di­cated that acid­i­fi­ca­tion can be par­tic­u­larly se­ri­ous in nu­tri­ent-rich coastal waters, such as the bay, which of­ten con­tain ar­eas with too lit­tle oxy­gen and high lev­els of car­bon diox­ide near the bot­tom, ac­cord­ing to a Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land press re­lease.

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