A mechanistic understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on the early life stages of marine bivalves

PI: George Waldbusser


Research Institution:            Oregon State University,  COAS

PI First name, Last name:     George Waldbusser

Phone:                                  541 737-8964

Email:                               waldbuss@coas.oregonstate.edu

Project website link (if available):                   n/a



The shift in the carbonate chemistry of marine waters, as a result of direct anthropogenic CO2 addition and climate-driven changes in circulation, poses a threat to many organisms. A rapidly expanding body of literature has shown that increasing levels of carbonic acid and decreasing carbonate ion levels will have deleterious effects on many marine organisms; however little is known about the mode of action of these changes in water chemistry on marine bivalves. Many marine organisms, particularly bivalves, depend critically on the production of calcium carbonate mineral, and this material becomes thermodynamically unstable under more acidic conditions. The actual mineral precipitation, however, takes place within interstitial volumes intermittently separated from ambient seawater by biological membranes. Therefore, abiotic relationships between solid phase minerals and seawater thermodynamics are oversimplified representations of the complex interplay among seawater chemistry, bivalve physiology, and shell growth processes.


In this integrative, multi-disciplinary project we will develop and apply novel experimental approaches to elucidate fundamental physiological responses to changes in seawater chemistry associated with ocean acidification. The four primary objectives of this project are to: 1) develop a novel experimental approach and system capable of unique combinations of pCO2, pH, and mineral saturation state (Ω), 2) conduct short-term exploratory experiments to determine bivalve responses to different carbonate system variables, 3) conduct longer-term directed studies of the integrated effects of different carbonate system variables over early life history of bivalves, and 4) compare these biological responses among a group of bivalve species that differ in shell mineralogy and nativity to the periodically acidified upwelling region of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. By isolating the effects of different components of the carbonate system on the early life stages of marine bivalves, e.g. does an oyster larvae respond more strongly to pCO2 or mineral saturation state?, we can begin to identify the mechanisms behind bivalve responses as well as understand how these organisms survive in transiently corrosive conditions.


Laboratory based experiments on three primary taxa (oyster, mussel, clam) having native and non-native species pairs to Oregon’s coastal waters: oysters Ostrea lurida and Crassostrea gigas; mussels Mytilus califonianus and Mytilus galloprovincialis; and clams Macoma nasuta and Ruditapes philippinarum, will allow for species comparisons among different shell mineralogy, microstructure, life-history, and adaptability. High-precision pCO2 and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) instruments will be used in experiments to control and properly constrain the carbonate chemistry. A compliment of response variables will be measured across the early life stages of these species that include tissue acid-base balance, shell mineralogy and chemistry, respiration rate, and behavior. Additionally, our emphasis will be placed on observation of development, growth, and shell structure by directly linking observational data with other measured response data. An adaptive strategy using short-term experiments to determine the most salient variables in the carbonate system to manipulate in longer-term studies is being employed. This approach allows us to evaluate acute effects, mimicking diurnal changes to carbonate variables often found in coastal areas, and integrated chronic effects mimicking a more gradual acidification due to the rise in atmospheric CO2.


KEYWORDS (to facilitate searching):  Bivalves, calcification, early life history, larvae, mechanisms, physiology

FUNDING AGENCY (if available):
National Science Foundation, CRI-OA