Acid seas makes the shells of mussels weaker

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California mussels

A study titled: Shell mineralogy of a foundational marine species, Mytilus californianus, over half a century in a changing ocean, researched the effect, over a long period of time, of the gradual acidification of the oceans on the strength and construction (general make up) of the shells of mussels. They studied “the shell mineralogy of a foundation species under 60 years of ocean warming and acidification”. That species is: Mytilus californianus (California mussels). They documented a “substantial increase in shell calcite and decreasing aragonite.”

California mussels

California mussels. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

They concluded, in the study’s abstract that, “These results indicate that ocean pH and saturation state, not temperature or salinity, play a strong role in mediating [meaning having an effect on] the shell mineralogy of the species and reveal long-term changes in this trait under ocean acidification”.

To try and put it into layperson’s terms, it seems that the acidification of the oceans is weakening the shells of marine wildlife such as molluscs. They compared the shell construction of these marine animals today to those of the 1950s.

Elizabeth Bullard, the lead researcher and author of the study, of California University San Diego, said: “It’s a big issue for marine organisms.”

What causes ocean acidification? It is mainly caused by carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere dissolving in the oceans which leads to a lowering of the water’s pH making it more acidic. The conclusion is that climate change due to human activity and unsustainable consumption is damaging marine wildlife in many ways including the weakening of the shells of molluscs and other similar species. Acidification is killing coral reefs.


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