Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture – Part II

karsten_cameron_12In order to prosper, every living creature requires clean air, clean water and abundant food.  For ocean-thriving mollusks, clean seawater is a must.  In December 2011, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire formed a Blue Ribbon Panel.  Their purpose: to investigate and study a new threat to Pacific Northwest waters.  They were putting Ocean Acidification (OA) under the microscope.

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karsten_cameron_14What is occurring is evidence of our Industrial Period 100 years prior as heavy carbon dioxide (CO2) elements now begin surfacing in the shallow waters of the Puget Sound.  As the spring and fall seasons of the Pacific Northwest bring strong northwesterly winds, currents in the Pacific Ocean stir up these century-old pollutants, pushing them upwards and east into the estuaries.  These so-called up-wellings decrease pH levels, causing normal numbers of 8.25 to sink lower into the acidic levels of 8.14 (The pH scale is representative of aqueous solutions from zero to fourteen; where zero characterizes hydrochloric acid or battery acid, and fourteen is sodium hydroxide, better known as bleach).  Acid is a solvent.  It dissolves what it comes in contact with.  Add acidic waters to oyster seed and you find its ingredients eating away at the calcium carbonate that makes up the mollusk’s shell.

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karsten_cameron_20Taylor Shellfish Farms is the first to experience this threat.  They are attracting globe attention to what is occurring within their hatcheries and throughout their farms.  They rely on clean healthy water for larvae seed to develop, but ocean acidification is effecting the development of these mollusks, prohibiting full and consistent growth of their calcium carbonate shells.  What is the future of the mollusk culture if we continue burning fossil fuels and causing the climate to warm-up at faster then expected rate?  Our industrial state affects more then just our air quality.

To see Part II of the multimedia project Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture, please click here

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  1. The Pacific plate is subducted beneath the Mariana Plate, creating the Mariana trench, and (further on) the arc of the Mariana islands, as water trapped in the plate is released and explodes upward to form island volcanoes. Credit: WikipediaRonnie Glud and researchers from Germany (HGF-MPG Research Group on Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology of the Max Planck Institute in Bremen and Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven), Japan ( Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology ), Scotland ( Scottish Association for Marine Science ) and Denmark (University of Copenhagen), explore the deepest parts of the oceans, and the team’s first results from these extreme environments are today published in the widely recognized international journal Nature Geoscience.

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