OCEAN ACIDIFICATION AND WARMING IMPACTS ON NATIVE AND NON-NATIVE SHELLFISH: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY ASSESSMENT
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Ocean acidification and warming have been shown to affect a wide range of marine organisms and impact assemblages and ecosystems. Many of the species experiencing negative biological effects provide valuable ecosystem services, yet it is unclear how these biological effects will affect ecosystem services provision. This thesis aimed to appraise the consequences of ocean acidification and warming on important shellfish species, from physiology to provision of ecosystem services, using a multidisciplinary approach. The responses to ocean acidification and warming of two ecologically and commercially important species of oysters – the native European Flat oyster Ostrea edulis, and the non-native Pacific oyster Magallana gigas – were assessed in laboratory mesocosms following long-term exposures to a range of scenarios predicted for 2050 and 2100.
Oysters provide numerous ecosystem services, including improvement of water quality, reef formation, and food provision, but are at risks from ocean acidification and other stressors due to negative impacts occurring at multiple life-stages and threatening reef maintenance and functioning (Chapter 1). The physiology of adult oysters appeared susceptible to ocean acidification and warming, with evident sub-lethal effects (Chapter 2). Magallana gigas experienced a greater degree of stress than O. edulis, displaying increased Standard Metabolic Rate, reduced Clearance Rate, and poorer Condition Indices. Reductions in Clearance Rates of M. gigas are especially concerning and may have important ecological impacts by limiting their ability to improve water quality in the future. The physiological changes experienced by individual oysters held important implications for the functioning of the reefs through changes in predation resistance. Again, M. gigas appeared to undergo more pronounced changes than O. edulis, displaying increased muscle strength but weakened shell strength. These changes are expected to alter its susceptibility to predators and influence community level interactions. Both O. edulis and M. gigas also underwent important changes to their biochemical composition with trends for impoverished nutritional quality, which holds direct implications on the provision of sea food. In particular, M. gigas contained lower lipid, carbohydrate, and protein levels, but higher contaminant concentration (copper); this change holds concerns for both future food security and future food safety. It was apparent that the physiological stress experienced (Chapter 2), led to significant energy reallocation from somatic growth to metabolism by depleting energetic reserves (Chapter 4), at the detriment of its nutritional quality. No negative effects on the eating quality of M. gigas (appearance, aroma, texture, taste, and overall acceptability) were recorded following a short-term exposure to ocean acidification and warming (Chapter 5), which was considered positive for the aquaculture sector. In order to secure future food provision and economic revenue, the UK aquaculture industry might need to reconsider its management strategy in the future, and encourage the production and consumption of O. edulis, in addition to the already popular M. gigas.
It is clear that the impacts of ocean acidification and warming on oysters are multifaceted and occurring at multiple scales and levels of organisation. The risks to oysters and oyster reefs appear species-specific; in the UK, introduced M. gigas may be more vulnerable than native O. edulis. To secure benefits and minimise costs related to the management of introduced species, these findings could be integrated into the current management and conservation measures in place for these species and the reefs they can form.