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Mussel report - The effects of lowered pH on the growth and...

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The effects of lowered pH on the growth and survival of Geukensia demissa , the ribbed mussel. December 10, 2007 Abstract : Many recent studies are reporting alarming results of greatly increased concentrations of atmospheric CO . Atmospheric CO passively diffuses into the surface waters of the ocean and can cause pH levels and calcium carbonate concentrations to decline. These conditions can have great impacts on the organisms living in the surface waters and the shallow coastal zone, especially those that depend on calcium carbonate for the construction of shells and tests. One such organism is the ribbed mussel, Geukensia demissa , which is found in many South Carolina estuaries. This mussel is important for water cleaning through filter feeding, nutrient delivery, and acts as an indicator species for the general health of its environment. This investigation tested the effects of different levels of lowered pH on the growth and survival of large and small mussels, and damaged and undamaged mussels. It was shown that lower pH has a positive effect on tissue growth for this mussel possibly attributed to the “pulsing” effect triggering the mussel to produce more tissue mass. There was no relationship found between survivorship and pH, damage, or size.
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Introduction: In the 250 years since the industrial revolution, the Earth has seen a dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels related to the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide has been labeled as a greenhouse gas, significantly contributing to rising global temperatures and the resulting climate changes. Another impact of increased atmospheric CO is a marked decline in oceanic pH and a reduction of carbonate concentrations (Sabine et al. 2004, Raven et al. 2005, Caldeira and Wickett 2003). Recent observations report a decrease in oceanic pH of 0.1 units from pre-industrial times and estimates of future pH change report an additional decrease of 0.4 units (Haugan and Drange 1996, Caldeira and Wickett 2003). The greatest impact will most likely be felt first by the phytoplankton and zooplankton found in the surface and also organisms found in the shallow coastal zone and estuaries where acidified water is easily mixed through the water column (Riebesell 2004). Changes in pH of 0.5-0.1 have shown to have little effects on marine organisms in their natural habitats, but with greater changes predicted for the future, this area is in need of further investigation (Knutzen 1981, Barry et al. 2004). Bivalves found within salt marsh habitats play an important ecological role in the environment. They function as filter feeders that can clean the water from contaminants and package particles to be deposited on the bottom that can be used as nutrients for various marsh plants such as Spartina alternaflora (Ringwood and Keppler 2002). These
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organisms can also act as biological indicators that can serve as warning signs that their environment is becoming polluted or that they are being stressed in some other way (Widdows et al. 2002).
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