Ocean acidification impacts the oysters memories of environmental trauma, As oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, they are becoming increasingly acidic and shifting the delicate balance that supports marine life.
How species will cope with ocean acidification and the other consequences of global climate change is still very much unknown and could have sweeping consequences.
Researchers have discovered that ocean acidification impacts the ability of some oysters to pass down “memories” of environmental trauma to their offspring.
Researchers studied two species of ecologically and commercially valuable oysters found throughout Puget Sound: the Olympia oyster and the Pacific oyster.
Although oyster larvae are sensitive to acidifying oceans, adult oysters commonly occur in intertidal areas and estuaries where they must endure constantly fluctuating water conditions. Ocean acidification impacts the oysters memories of environmental trauma.
We found that Olympia oyster adults were relatively resilient to acidification and warming when exposed during the winter. Most interestingly, we found evidence that adult exposure to acidified conditions can benefit offspring by improving survival.
This carryover effect demonstrates that the experiences of oyster parents have a direct impact on how their offspring perform, and juvenile oysters may be more resilient in certain environments when their parents have been pre-conditioned by similar stressors.
Researchers observed that the embryonic and larval offspring of female oysters exposed to these experimental conditions experienced poorer survival than a similar control group.
The conditions one generation of Pacific oysters experience can affect how their children perform.
Even if oysters are not in stressful conditions when they reproduce, their previous stressful experiences can impact their offspring.
These two contrasting results are both encouraging and concerning to Washington’s shellfish industry, which generates nearly $150 million a year and provides over 2,700 jobs. Ocean acidification impacts the oysters memories of environmental trauma.
Nevertheless, determining how and why some species, such as the Olympia oyster, tolerate ocean acidification and warming helps inform where to focus conservation resources and how to improve growing methods, said Spencer.
The aquaculture industry is part of the fiber of Washington, and understanding how oysters will respond to changes in their environment, like more acidic water conditions, across multiple generations is crucial to sustaining the industry.
This recent research shows that as the world’s oceans warm and become more acidic due to climate change, species tolerance or sensitivity can’t be defined by looking solely at one generation of oysters.