The early life history of the clam Macoma balthica in a high CO2 world

Carl Van Colen, Elisabeth Debusschere, Ulrike Braeckman, Dirk Van Gansbeke, Magda Vincx

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    Abstract

    This study investigated the effects of experimentally manipulated seawater carbonate chemistry on several early life history processes of the Baltic tellin (Macoma balthica), a widely distributed bivalve that plays a critical role in the functioning of many coastal habitats. We demonstrate that ocean acidification significantly depresses fertilization, embryogenesis, larval development and survival during the pelagic phase. Fertilization and the formation of a D-shaped shell during embryogenesis were severely diminished: successful fertilization was reduced by 11% at a 0.6 pH unit decrease from present (pH 8.1) conditions, while hatching success was depressed by 34 and 87%, respectively at a 0.3 and 0.6 pH unit decrease. Under acidified conditions, larvae were still able to develop a shell during the post-embryonic phase, but higher larval mortality rates indicate that fewer larvae may metamorphose and settle in an acidified ocean. The cumulative impact of decreasing seawater pH on fertilization, embryogenesis and survival to the benthic stage is estimated to reduce the number of competent settlers by 38% for a 0.3 pH unit decrease, and by 89% for a 0.6 pH unit decrease from present conditions. Additionally, slower growth rates and a delayed metamorphosis at a smaller size were indicative for larvae developed under acidified conditions. This may further decline the recruit population size due to a longer subjection to perturbations, such as predation, during the pelagic phase. In general, early life history processes were most severely compromised at ~pH 7.5, which corresponds to seawater undersaturated with respect to aragonite. Since recent models predict a comparable decrease in pH in coastal waters in the near future, this study indicates that future populations of Macoma balthica are likely to decline as a consequence of ongoing ocean acidification.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPloS one
    Volume7
    Issue number9
    Pages (from-to)e44655
    Number of pages8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 12-Sep-2012

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