Oysters and abalone may disappear

27 October 2011

Increasing acidification in coastal waters could compromise the ability of oysters and other marine creatures to form and keep their shells, according to a new study led by University of Georgia researchers.  They determined the combined effects of fertilizer runoff carried by the Mississippi River to the northern Gulf of Mexico and excess atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels result in an unexpected increase in the acidity of Gulf waters.

As the water becomes more acidic, sea creatures that form carbonate shells or skeletons — from single-celled amoebae to oysters to corals — are less able to produce and maintain these structures. If the acidity of coastal waters continues to increase, it is predicted that by the end of the century these creatures won’t be able to form shells.

Although their research focused on Gulf of Mexico coastal waters, they extended their findings globally by making the same measurements on the Changjaing (Yangtze) River, the largest river in Asia, where they found similar results.

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