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Climate change could reduce estuarine habitat for oysters in California

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Edwin Grosholz, Professor and Swantz Specialist in Cooperative Extension, University of California, Davis. Presenting remotely.

NOAA's National Ocean Service Science Seminar; coordinator is
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Ocean acidification is bad news for shellfish, as it makes it harder for them to form their calcium-based shells. But climate change could also have multiple other impacts that make California bays less hospitable to shelled organisms like oysters, which are a key part of the food web. Changes to water temperature and chemistry resulting from human-caused climate change could shrink the prime habitat and farming locations for oysters in California bays, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis. The study recently published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography, shows that changes to dissolved oxygen levels, water temperature, and salinity could have an even greater impact than ocean acidification on oyster growth in estuaries and bays. In California, climate change is expected to lead to increased variability in precipitation, higher water temperatures, and increased upwelling. The study suggests that this combination of effects would lead to greater stress on oysters, particular at the edges of bays that connect to rivers and the ocean. In the estuaries and bays where oysters grow, acidification is a much more complicated process than in the open ocean. Estuarine organisms have evolved with this variable pH regime, which could make them more resilient to ocean acidification. But other factors important to oyster health, such as temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen, are also projected to change with climate change. The study provides insight for oyster restoration projects as well as commercial oyster farmers. For example, projections for suitable oyster habitat could help determine where to site projects and farms for the best chance of success.


Ted Grosholz is a Professor and the Alexander and Elizabeth Swantz Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis. He is a benthic marine ecologist whose works at the community and ecosystem level examining the effects of climate change and other human impacts in coastal ecosystems. Much of his work concerns climate impacts and non-native species in California estuaries where he is also involved in the restoration of coastal habitats including native Olympia oysters.
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