The World Will Not Be Your Oyster for Long

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the latest to realize that its famed oyster and clam harvests are increasingly at risk from risinc ocean acidity.

An August 15 front page above the fold article in the SF Chronicle laid out the ugly findings.

About 10 years ago, baby oysters, or spat, began to die at an alarming rate. Farms along the West Coast lost more than half of their bivalves before they reached maturity, creating a shortage of seed. That deficit hit Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall especially hard

… That culprit, ocean acidification, is the caustic cousin of climate change, and it shifts the chemistry of ocean water, making it harder for oysters to grow. That’s because about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, causing pH levels to plummet and making the water more acidic. The more pollution in the air, the more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs.

climate change clams-hi

Back in February, regional newspapers from the Chesapeake Bay and New Orleans picked up on the new study from Nature Climate Change that ocean acidification was going to have major economic impact on their bi-valve farms and the communities that depended on them.

Climate Change Bi Valve Vulnerability


In 2012 a meeting of scientists in Monterey, California took up the issue.

In 2010, Science, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had a long scholarly article which, despite its academic restraint, was terrifying.

The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystem. 

Just for starters:

Recent studies indicate that rapidly rising greenhouse gas concentrations are driving ocean systems toward conditions not seen for millions of years, with an associated risk of fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation. The impacts of anthropogenic climate change so far include decreased ocean productivity, altered food web dynamics, reduced abundance of habitat-forming species, shifting species distributions, and a greater incidence of disease… [link]

Oysters on Acid

Billions of baby oysters in the Pacific inlets here are dying and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is busy spreading the bad news.

“It used to be the canary in the coal mine,” Mr. Inslee said in a recent interview. “Now it’s the oyster in the half shell. You can’t overstate what this means to Washington.”

Oysters Under Acid

Oysters On Acid

Mr. Inslee, who is campaigning for his agenda across the state this summer with oyster farmers in tow, is trying to position himself as America’s leading governor in the climate change fight. But Mr. Inslee does not have the support of the majority of the Washington State Senate, particularly those conservative lawmakers from the rural inland … NY Times: Davenport

This is a strangely snarky report on Inslee using out of state money to get his ideas out — after out-of-staters have poured billions into the political troughs to do just the opposite, deny and define down the dangers of climate change.  In this year of WW I centenary it’s like complaining about French taxi drivers carrying soldiers to the front after the Germans have poured across the border….

For more, here’s a Science Daily article:

Marine researchers have definitively linked the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon to an increase in ocean acidification.

Shellfish — The New Canaries

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine which, by responding faster to CO buildup underground than humans, and signaling it by death, we have many living indicators of increasingly dangerous conditions around us.  Shellfish are only the latest.

The oceans are more acidic now than they’ve been at any time in the last 300 million years, conditions that marine scientists warn could lead to a mass extinction of key species.

Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) published their State of the Oceans report Thursday, a biennial study that surveys how oceans are responding to human impacts. The researchers found the current level of acidification is “unprecedented” and that the overall health of the ocean is declining at a much faster rate than previously thought.

“We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure,” the report states. “The next mass extinction may have already begun.”

Current conditions in the oceans were similar to those 55 million years ago, known as the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, that led to wide extinctions. And the current pace of change was much faster and meant greater stresses…

 Press release from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) here, as well as PDFs of the report.


Climate, Climate, Climate

The only answer to the question, ‘What are the three most serious issues confronting the world today?’ is ‘Climate, Climate, Climate.’

Methane release:

Permafrost is beginning to melt under the influence of climate change across parts of Siberia, Canada and Alaska in a trend that threatens homes, railways and oil pipelines, according to a new U.N. report.

The accelerating melt is also poised to free vast amounts of carbon dioxide and methane that have been trapped in the ground for thousands of years, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) report cautions.

Acid Oceans

The shell of a tiny snail that is an important food source for fish and birds in the water surrounding Antarctica is being dissolved in an ocean that is becoming more acidic due to climate change, new research shows.

Increasing carbonic acid levels in the world’s oceans are due to the water absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.

The source of that greenhouse gas is the burning of fossil fuels.

The water’s pH is now dropping faster than at any other time in the past 300 million years.

The shell of Limacina helicina being eaten away by ocean acidity

More CO2 

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.

Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.

The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.