21 Nov 2011: Report

Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show
Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.

by elizabeth grossman

Standing on the shores of Netarts Bay in Oregon on a sunny fall morning, it’s hard to imagine that the fate of the oysters being raised here at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is being determined by what came out of smokestacks and tailpipes in the 1960s and ‘70s. But this rural coastal spot and the shellfish it has nurtured for centuries are a bellwether of one of the most palpable changes being caused by global carbon dioxide emissions — ocean acidification.

It was here, from 2006 to 2008, that oyster larvae began dying dramatically, with hatchery owners Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, experiencing larvae losses of 70 to 80 percent. “Historically we’ve had larvae mortalities,” says Wiegardt, but those deaths were usually related to bacteria. After spending thousands of dollars to disinfect and filter out pathogens, the hatchery’s oyster larvae were still dying.

Finally, the couple enlisted the help of Burke Hales, a biogeochemist and ocean ecologist at Oregon State University. He soon homed in on the carbon chemistry of the water. “My wife sent a few samples in and Hales said someone had screwed up the samples because the [dissolved CO2 gas] level was so ridiculously high,” says Wiegardt, a fourth-generation oyster farmer. But the measurements were accurate. What the Whiskey Creek hatchery was experiencing was acidic seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing excessive amounts of CO2 from the air.

Ocean acidification — which makes it difficult for shellfish, corals, sea urchins, and other creatures to form the shells or calcium-based structures
The region’s thriving oyster hatcheries have had to scramble to adapt to these increases in acidity.
they need to live — was supposed to be a problem of the future. But because of patterns of ocean circulation, Pacific Northwest shellfish are already on the front lines of these potentially devastating changes in ocean chemistry. Colder, more acidic waters are welling up from the depths of the Pacific Ocean and streaming ashore in the fjords, bays, and estuaries of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, exacting an environmental and economic toll on the region’s famed oysters.

For the past six years, wild oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington, have failed to reproduce successfully because corrosive waters have prevented oyster larvae from forming shells. Wild oysters in Puget Sound and off the east coast of Vancouver Island also have experienced reproductive failure because of acidic waters. Other wild oyster beds in the Pacific Northwest have sustained losses in recent years at the same time that scientists have been measuring alarmingly corrosive water along the Pacific coast.

The region’s thriving oyster hatcheries have had to scramble to adapt to these increases in acidity, which pose a threat to their very existence. Some of the largest operations, such as Whiskey Creek, are buffering the water in which they grow their larvae, essentially giving their tanks a dose of antacid in the form of sodium bicarbonate.

While the operation may look modest — a handful of small buildings just yards from the shore of a wide bay — Whiskey Creek is one of the largest suppliers of oyster seed on the West Coast. Its baby oysters are grown all along the U.S. Pacific coast, where the oyster industry is currently valued at about $73 million annually. Washington's Taylor Shellfish Hatchery — the country’s largest producer of farmed shellfish and one of the largest oyster producers — has also experienced dramatic losses. Its hatchery on Hood Canal, which has had some of the Pacific Northwest’s highest levels of ocean acidification, experienced the loss of about three-quarters of its oyster larvae before the owners began buffering the high acidity.

Oyster Farming
Courtesy of NOAA/Taylor Shellfish Farms
Workers harvest oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington.
Together, Whiskey Creek and Taylor Shellfish, which also raises clams and mussels, account for most of the West Coast’s commercial shellfish production. Oysters are the biggest product, making up more than 80 percent of the Pacific coast shellfish produced and more than 60 percent of the revenue. According to industry and federal officials, the West Coast oyster industry generates about 3,000 jobs and has a total annual economic impact of about $207 million — significant numbers for their coastal communities.

The situation at the hatcheries has improved substantially in the past couple of years, thanks largely to an ongoing, intensive scientific monitoring effort and to measures to control the pH of seawater in the tanks where oyster larvae are raised. But ocean acidification continues apace, which makes understanding what’s been happening to Whiskey Creek oysters vital to grasping what will eventually threaten every ocean organism that builds a shell or coral branch.

Because of the way seawater circulates around the world, the deep water now washing ashore in Oregon and Washington is actually 30 to 50 years old and absorbed its CO2 long before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This time lag is important because oceans absorb about 50 percent of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels, emissions that have been rising dramatically in recent decades. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean acidity has increased approximately 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and if we continue our current rate of carbon emissions, global oceans could be 150 percent more acidic by the end of the century than they have been for 20 million years.

“This problem is real,” says Hales. “There are measurable human impacts.”

Click to enlarge
NOAA Ocean Acidification

Carbon dioxide time series
Once absorbed by seawater, CO2 undergoes chemical reactions that make the water more acidic, says Richard Feely, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and an expert in the ocean’s carbon chemistry. The chemical reactions that lower the ocean’s pH also reduce the availability of the kind of calcium carbonate that a variety of sea creatures need to build shells. On a 2007 research cruise along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Baja California, Feely discovered that “corrosive waters were everywhere we looked.”

When seasonal wind patterns change in spring, north winds create upwellings of deep and more acidic seawater off the Pacific Northwest coast. These waters — with their lowered pH and lack of available calcium carbonate in the form of what’s called aragonite — are what have been killing the oyster larvae. The availability of aragonite is particularly vital at an oyster’s earliest stages of development. In the first 24 to 48 hours of an oyster’s life, as it forms its first shell, the larvae go from being almost 0 percent shell to at least 70 percent shell before they begin to grow more tissue, explains George Waldbusser, assistant professor of ocean ecology and biochemistry at Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. Lower aragonite saturation means the tiny larvae — much smaller than a poppy seed — need to expend more energy to make their shells.

“If too much energy is used at one stage, they may not be able to survive to a subsequent stage or overcome the stress,” says Waldbusser.

Acidic water sometimes kills oyster larvae outright, so that they fail to survive past the egg stage. At other times, the eggs hatch, but larvae fail after a week or two.

“A lot is happening to an egg in the first 24 hours,” says Benoit Eudeline, chief scientist at the Taylor Shellfish Hatchery. “It goes from what’s essentially a blob to a creature with a shell, a digestive tract, organs. The oyster has to use a lot of aragonite to make its early shell and there seems
‘If too much energy is used at one stage, larvae may not be able to survive to a subsequent stage,’ says an expert.
to be a strong correlation between aragonite saturation and survival of larvae at a later stage.”

Waldbusser and colleagues are now researching the impacts of the stress induced by low aragonite saturation — how it may be affecting the oyster larvae’s use of its food reserves, and how it may impact development. “At this stage they’re floating around and eating as much as they can,” explains Christopher Sabine, director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “Anything that’s going to take energy away from shell-building is going to cost them.”

In response to the devastating die-off of larvae from 2006 to 2008 — and with the help of Hales, Waldbusser, and other scientists — Whiskey Creek and Taylor Shellfish began a program of ongoing monitoring to help avoid the intake of acidic water. Particularly at Netarts Bay, where the deep ocean water is on shore in early morning, they discovered they could improve pH conditions by varying the time of day they took water into their tanks. A better, less acidic time to pull in water is later in the day, after growth of phytoplankton has been stimulated by sunlight, thus soaking up some of the excess CO2. Buffering the acid also was crucial. A half-million dollars in federal funds has helped cover the expensive work of monitoring and controlling the seawater chemistry.

At the Taylor Shellfish Hatchery, where water takes much longer than it does at Netarts to move in and out of the bay, organic matter — dead algae for example — can build up, die, and become food for bacteria that use up oxygen and further increase CO2 concentrations. This underscores the fact that controlling the flow of excess nutrients into the ocean, such as fertilizers and sewage, can to some degree offset the impacts of growing acidity.


An Ominous Warning on the
Effects of Ocean Acidification

An Ominous Warning on the Effects of Ocean Acidification
A 2010 study said the seas are acidifying ten times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. And, science writer Carl Zimmer reported, current changes in ocean chemistry may portend a new wave of die-offs.
Feely said problems with ocean acidification are also starting to be seen on the U.S.’s Atlantic coast and in Australia. Agricultural runoff and sewage have been taking a toll on the once-thriving oyster business in the Chesapeake Bay, and now rising ocean acidity is further exacerbating the problems of CO2-laden waters there. But for shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest, these impacts are already too clear. As Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish put it, Pacific Northwest oysters may be “the canary in the coal mine.”

Yet on a November morning, with the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains just visible through the fog, the landscape around Taylor Shellfish looks much as it always has: the sea, the mountains, and a shore lined with fir trees. But as Dewey understands, the green-gray water is changing in a way it hasn’t for eons — changes that will be with us well into the next century, and possibly longer.

“We have to find a way in our industry to adapt,” says Dewey.

POSTED ON 21 Nov 2011 IN Biodiversity Oceans Oceans Policy & Politics Pollution & Health Pollution & Health North America North America 


What are your thoughts on this?


Posted by Kevin Hughes on 21 Nov 2011

Did you read Richard Feely's research?

Posted by Gregory on 21 Nov 2011

What's missing here is some mention of the pair of CO2 issues. The first half of the CO2 problem is that CO2 already emitted into air and oceans, about 1 trillion tonnes. This is already emitted and is slowly being converted via H20+C02=H2C03, acid and ocean death. The other part of the CO2 issue is the CO2 yet to be emitted, it will surely add a second lethal dose of CO2 to the oceans.

But first things first... that first trillion tonnes of CO2 is lethal enough as demonstrated by the crisis of shellfish, our ocean sentinal species. What can be done about this first lethal dose?

Surely all of the attention is being focused on the reduction of new emissions which hopefully slow down the administration of a second lethal dose of CO2 to the oceans. Though all of the effort will be in vain if the first lethal dose kills the patient.

The is ONLY ONE mechanism that can mitigate CO2 and prevent it from becoming H2CO3 acid death. That ONE means was shown by the late great John Martin who in the 1980's reported on the crisis of CO2 in the oceans and the declining ocean plant life... it is only plants and their photosynthesis that can divert those trillion tonnes of CO2 and turn it into ocean LIFE.

Only if we choose LIFE instead of acid ocean death does higher life in the oceans have any chance. We have mere years to succeed at restoring ocean phytoplankton lest following the dying shellfish we watch the rest of higher ocean life become extinct as the oceans return to a sea of cyanobacterial slime from when all life on this blue planet sprung a billion years ago.

Choose ocean LIFE.

Posted by Nainoa on 21 Nov 2011

For those who can't be bothered to look up the Watts Up With That reference, the executive summary is that the problem with oyster larvae was already identified in 2009 and attributed to the upwelling of deep, cold, anoxic water following changes in the Pacific Oscillation. And some new bacteria which may or may not have been assisted by the change. Nothing about 'ocean acidification'.

Posted by Jon Jermey on 22 Nov 2011

Watts engages in character assassination but never looks at the real effect of declining pH on oysters. There are multiple factors affecting the CO2 level of the water, not just the CO2 of the air it was initially in equilibrium with, but rising cO2 levels obviously play a role in increasing acidity. Increases in residence time may allow more organic matter to sink and oxidize to CO2 also. Increasing oxygen depletion is evidence of increasing CO2 from fallen organic matter. Both rising atmospheric CO2 levels and increasing organic matter oxidation are increasing acidity in sea water along the PNW coast.

Watts is a skilled deceiver.

Posted by FishOutofWater on 22 Nov 2011

I think Watts (as cited earlier at WUWT) has done a reasonable, and prompt, demolition of this piece of writing - a piece which brings no glory whatsoever to Yale.

I get the impression that the speed with which specious links to 'climate change' are being refuted or exposed as far-fetched and without evidential support is accelerating. This can only be a good thing, as it must surely bring forward the day in which climate matters get treated more sensibly by governments and others with power.

Posted by John Shade on 22 Nov 2011

There is a problem, all right, but it is not from CO2. The main cause of increased acidity of sea water is radioactivity from all the nuclear waste dumped into the oceans, nuclear-powered ships passing through the water, and fallout falling into the water from all the things the nuclear industry and armed forces of the nuclear-armed nations are doing, including the use of radioactive ammunition in wars around the world and for target practice at home.

It has been known since the early 1950s that radioactivity in high concentrations makes water acidic. The attempt to blame this pending catastrophe on the "greenhouse gases" boogyman of the moment is a distraction from the real, manmade cause that portends a catastrophe of global proportions, but has little or nothing to do with CO2.

For more details, see: www.orgonomicecology.blogspot.com

Posted by Joel Carlinsky on 22 Nov 2011

Ms. Grossman seems to contradict herself in her own article. At first (and in the title) claims that rising stratospheric CO2 is causing problems with shellfish hatcheries, and then admits, more than half-way through, that the real problem is:

'When seasonal wind patterns change in spring, north winds create upwellings of deep and more acidic seawater off the Pacific Northwest coast. These waters — with their lowered pH and lack of available calcium carbonate in the form of what’s called aragonite — are what have been killing the oyster larvae'.

Deep ocean water's pH levels have absolutely nothing to do with current atmospheric CO2 levels...not even this century's CO2 levels...possibly not anything to do with atmospheric CO2 levels at all. The subject is not well understood nor is it subject to recent study.

The NOAA chart supplied shows a single figure for seawater pH showing a drop of 4 or 5 one-hundredths of a pH number...an absurdity. Article itself explains. natural processes thast occur during the day in a single bay change the pH of the water substantially. If that is so, where do they get the 'seawater pH' number? to within a few one hundredths? Determining the 'ocean's seawater pH' would be a task far more daunting than determining the 'Earth's Average Surface Air Temperature' -- and we all know how that little job has been going.
Maybe we should ask Dr. Feely? Hey, Doc, where'd you get that neat little number?

Posted by Kip Hansen on 22 Nov 2011

The information in this article was drawn from numerous interviews with some of the leading and most respected research scientists working in the field of oceanography, ocean biogeochemistry, chemical oceanography, and ocean ecology, including senior scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as with the leading Pacific Northwest shellfish producers. This information was confirmed by that presented in a November 9, 2011 symposium on ocean acidification hosted by Washington Sea Grant. The details of ocean acidification described have now been confirmed by dozens of peer reviewed scientific studies.

Since 2005, the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry has lost millions of dollars due to oyster larvae die-offs, pushing some of these businesses to the brink of failure. Once the hatcheries recognized that high CO2 was causing the problem, they implemented mitigation strategies to deal with the high CO2 and have been able to turn the industry around. Further, Netarts Bay does not suffer from eutrophication or excess nutrient run-off, so it has been clear this phenomenon was not the source of the bay’s excess CO2. The pH scale is logarithmic, so small numerical changes represent far greater changes on the acid-base scale than the discrete numbers otherwise suggest. NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory provides a clear primer on ocean acidification and ocean carbon uptake here:


Posted by Elizabeth Grossman on 22 Nov 2011

if people talk about geo-engineering to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere .. what are the proposals to geo-engineer the pH of Oceans?

Posted by Nichol on 23 Nov 2011

Ms. Grossman's assertion that the Chesapeake oyster problem is related to agriculture runoff and increasing CO2 does a great disservice to the much needed efforts to restore this keystone specie. The Chesapeake oyster population declined some 70% between 1890 and 1920 as the result of over harvest and associated reef destruction. The Bay saw an additional crash starting in the 1960s caused by the ravages of two diseases- MSX and Dermo- reducing populations to less than 1% of their historic abundance.

The chemists at this great University are strangely silent about some of the claims being made about the impact of a few ppm CO2 increase on the pH of a highly buffered system. I would have expected someone to comment on the statistical significance of a reported 0.05 pH per decade decline shown in CO2 Time Series graph. Or the consequences of heating CO2 rich deep cold ocean waters in the hatchery.

One question- given the fact that Vibrio has ravaged the west coast oysters during this time period, the acknowledged mixing of deep ocean water with a warm ocean surface layer starting in 2007, and the heating of the hatchery water by over 10degC-- how do we know what percentage of the problem is related to an increase in atmospheric CO2? And why is no-one asking this question?

Posted by Pat Moffitt on 23 Nov 2011

Ms. Grossman-you imply in your comments that nutrients are unchanged in Netharts Bay. You may be interested in a 2008 paper by Elston et al. here. "Losses of larval and juvenile bivalves were linked to V. tubiashii blooms in the coastal environment, which were associated with the apparent mixing of unusually warm surface seawater and intermittently upwelled cooler, nutrient- and Vibrio spp.- enriched seawater."

You may also find of interest this from the 2009 Emergency Plan to Save Oyster Production on the West Coast:

"Since 2003, however, higher than normal upwelling increased the extent and intensity of intrusions of deep acidic, hypoxic water off the Oregon and Washington coasts, and contributed to the formation of persistent dead zones. These events have resulted in fundamental changes in the character of our coastal bays, which contribute to high larval mortality throughout the entire year.......Because this hypoxic and relatively acidic up-welled water is coming from deep basins and is cold (8 - 10 oC), it is saturated with dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen while at the same time being low in oxygen as a result of biological decomposition in the benthic zone. When hatcheries heat this gas-saturated seawater to 25 - 28 oC in order to meet the temperature requirements of young shellfish, the seawater becomes super-saturated. Preliminary experiments indicate that oyster larvae are very sensitive to gas super-saturation under these conditions."

Posted by Pat Moffitt on 23 Nov 2011

In order to establish ocean acidification, one must define the criteria. Is human development the cause of increasing CO2 levels or is that volcano vents below the ocean releasing higher amounts in recent times? One thing is sure, that even if human development is NOT the cause of increasing CO2 levels, nobody can deny that human development is a contributor to higher COs levels. Why shouldn't then human development be reducing those levels instead of accelerating ocean acidification?

One solution would be to invest more effort in the development of clean energy, so human develop will NOT continue on polluting the world by sing dirty energy. Just take a look at the on-going efforts to provide clean energy at http://iced.eu5.org to see how emerging technological advances allow people worldwide to improve their living standards and amenities while dramatically reducing environmental harm. It's the direction human development should be working on, right?

Posted by 何朝輝 on 24 Nov 2011

As a small oysterfarmer on willapa bay washington, I am always amazed at how Taylor Industries et al always omit a very iimportant aspect of how they treat the water. The oystergrowers in Willapa Bay have been spraying carbaryl at least since 1964 to kill a native ghost shrimp which oxygenates the mudflats, and according to the commercial shellfish growers who dredge, their oysters fall in the mud and suffocate. Because a court order has said that carbaryl can no longer be used after 2012, the growers have been experimenting with imadicloprid as a replacement. In addition they have managed to get japanese eelgrass listed as a noxious weed and will be using another pesticide (in the imazapyr family) when ecology allows them to.

The shellfish growers have also been cheerleaders for the eradication of spartina which has meant thousands of tons of glyphosate and imazapyr have been poured into the bay and elsewhere in Washington State.

The suspicious science that has authorized this has spread like a virus to california and oregon.

I'm not suggesting that pesticides cause ocean acidification, but I find it hard to think that pesticides are harmless to larvae, and that killing vegetation, plankton et al which pesticides do, and that the huge amount of pesticides used that end up in the ocean have absolutely nothing to do with ocean acidification.

French studies are showing that oysters exposed to pesticides are more vulnerable to vibrio, and the pesticides in their marine water are a result of runoff, not a result of direct spraying into the water.

If there are studies that show that Pesticides have nothing to do with loss of phytoplankton, loss of oxygen which can create algae blooms, loss of larvae and benthic organisms and other indicators of water quality, please let me know, perhaps then I will be convinced that pesticides have nothing to do added in with all the other pollutants with ocean acidification. I am not a scientist, just an observer of the most horrendous stewardship the shellfish growers display in Willapa Bay and elsewhere and the silence of the scientists and journalists who are aware of this.

This is related to the video on salt cedar. There is a huge industry and bureaucracy that has been created to go after non-native so called invasive species that is poisoning our environment.

Posted by fritzi cohen on 24 Nov 2011

People who want to understand ocean acidification should click on the link to the PMEL sources. Marine chemistry a complicated subject. Most of the comments in this thread show fundamental misunderstandings of geochemistry.

For example, if samples from depth are allowed to warm and degas, they may become less acidic because (acidic) dissolved CO2 may degas & go into the atmosphere.

I don't have the time to debunk and debate all the attacks on reason in the comments. Please read what the experts at PMEL wrote if you want to understand ocean acidification better.

Posted by FishOutofWater on 25 Nov 2011


What geo-chemistry comments- specifically- are attacks on reason?

If I go to PMEL as your appeal to authority suggests - they cite Yale 360 as the source linking ocean acidification and oyster die off. A bit circular don't you think?

Wouldn't gas supersaturation as the result of rapid hatchery heating of cold deep ocean waters kill the oysters even if atmospheric CO2 had not increased?

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 28 Nov 2011

PMEL has produced peer reviewed publications on ocean acidification and they have a web portal on it. Start here:

Animals respire CO2 to the ocean and atmosphere. Last I knew, oysters respire CO2 also. Gaseous CO2 is not harming the oysters directly. They produce it.

What's harmful to oysters is the undersaturation of the shell forming mineral *aragonite* in the sea water they are growing in. If oyster spat can't produce a shell, the oysters don't survive.

Posted by FishOutofWater on 29 Nov 2011

Fishout of water- You don't have a science background- do you? If so please show me using pCO2 the changes in aragonite attributable to increased atmospheric CO2 is the source of the problem while controlling for salinity and temperature changes. (Or for that matter there was
an aragonite problem caused by increased atmospheric atmospheric contributions) Please control for the upwelling (natually enriched in CO2) and the influence of primary production and the natural variability found across diurnal and multidecadadal timescales. And please show me that a change in 0.05 pH units is not well within this range of natural variability.(0.05 units as statistically meaningful change for ocean waters is just laughable- where are Yale's scientists?)

Oyster restoration faces very real and significant hurdles- the most recent being the hijacking by the ocean acidification narrative. We sat by while the East Coast oysters declined by 99% - funding for research and restoration was basically nonexistent- a travesty given their keystone position. Now all of a sudden they are the poster animal for acidification- which may set back meaningful restoration efforts by decades. Shame on all of us.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 29 Nov 2011

Elizabeth, nice work! Note that a very recent study Pfister (2011) highlights that seawater data off Tatoosh Island (Washington) shows ocean acidification there progressing 10 times faster than expected. Paleo-proxies indicate that this is unprecedented in the last 1340 yrs.

Also, Mathis (2011) has found parts of the Arctic (Bering Sea) are seasonally undersaturated with respect to aragonite i.e. sea water is periodically corrosive to aragonitic shells. And 2009 saw waters corrosive to calcite (a less soluble form of calcium carbonate used for shell-building)

Looks like yet another projection is happening much faster than anticipated.

Posted by Rob Painting on 30 Nov 2011

Oysters and marine life face many man-made threats. Ocean acidification is but one of them. Many of the earth's extinction events were associated with ocean acidification events. The PETM and the greatest extinction event of all time, the end-Permian extinction, are 2 notable examples.

Those who deny global warming, climate change and ocean acidification frequently misinterpret geology, concluding that nature, not man, is causing today's changes.

In actuality, humans are recreating the conditions that led to catastrophes recorded in the geologic record.

Posted by FishOutofWater on 30 Nov 2011

Rob Painting-

Please tell me the "prediction happening faster than we anticipated" so that we may all be able to measure it over time. The 2011 Phister paper you cite says pH changes are not the result of atmospheric CO2 enrichment: "decline in pH is an order of magnitude greater than predicted by an equilibrium response to rising atmospheric CO2"

Oysters have four great challenges - disease (Vibrio, MSX and Dermo, habitat loss (reef destruction), over harvest and depensation. Please understand the consequences to meaningful
restoration efforts of shifting the plight of the oysters to your preferred narrative.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 30 Nov 2011


It hardly seems appropriate using the PETM and Permian extinction to answer my question as to the factors influencing the CO2 levels of Whiskey Bay and the presumed association with oyster mortality.

Before you use the Permian extinction - just show me that the changes in pH seen at the Whiskey Creek oyster hatchery are outside the bands of natural variability. You also didn't answer my question on the role of gas supersaturation.

(I'm also surprised you know for a fact the causes of the Permian and PETM extinction events--I can list at least 7 theories positing different mechanisms for the Permian extinction. You really need to get a handle on context if you are suggesting anything we are doing now compares to the Siberian Traps. And I am not sure how we are recreating the theorized asteroid strike at the K-T boundary? (Are you familiar with the temperature and CO2 estimates for these eras? Do you have a science background?- 2nd time asked)

Just out of curiosity- why don't people use their real names?

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 30 Nov 2011

Pat Moffitt - sorry, I won't allow you to misinform here. Here's the abstract from Pfister

"The anthropogenic input of fossil fuel carbon into the atmosphere results in increased carbon dioxide (CO2) into the oceans, a process that lowers seawater pH, decreases alkalinity and can inhibit the production of shell material. Corrosive water has recently been documented in the northeast Pacific, along with a rapid decline in seawater pH over the past decade. A lack of instrumentation prior to the 1990s means that we have no indication whether these carbon cycle changes have precedence or are a response to recent anthropogenic CO2 inputs.

"We analyzed stable carbon and oxygen isotopes (δ13C, δ18O) of decade-old California mussel shells (Mytilus californianus) in the context of an instrumental seawater record of the same length. We further compared modern shells to shells from 1000 to 1340 years BP and from the 1960s to the present and show declines in the δ13C of modern shells that have no historical precedent. Our finding of decline in another shelled mollusk (limpet) and our extensive environmental data show that these δ13C declines are unexplained by changes to the coastal food web, upwelling regime, or local circulation. Our observed decline in shell δ13C parallels other signs of rapid changes to the nearshore carbon cycle in the Pacific, including a decline in pH that is an order of magnitude greater than predicted by an equilibrium response to rising atmospheric CO2, the presence of low pH water throughout the region, and a record of a similarly steep decline in δ13C in algae in the Gulf of Alaska. These unprecedented changes and the lack of a clear causal variable underscores the need for better quantifying carbon dynamics in nearshore environments."

And yes, this acidification is happening much, much faster than anticipated. Having read over 200 scientific papers on the topic, I think I'm on safe ground stating so.

Posted by Rob Painting on 30 Nov 2011

Congratulations on reading 200 papers! It is however always a good idea to actually read the paper rather than doing a cursory review of the abstract. Such a reading of the Phister et al 2011 paper would have uncovered the fact the authors state the "lack of a clear causal variable":

".... at Tatoosh Island [2], although the pH decrease was even greater, over 13 times stronger than can be explained by equilibrium with the rising atmospheric CO2 over this time period. The carbon chemistry of the surface waters is thus changing much more quickly than can be explained by simple immediate forcing from atmospheric CO2."

And again from the paper:
"Whether the decline we report can be attributed to single factors such as circulation changes that have not yet been documented, a fundamental difference in the cycling of carbon in this region, an alteration of carbon metabolism in these animals, perhaps via an effect of changing seawater carbon chemistry on shell composition (e.g. [8]), or undescribed interactions among these factors is unknown. Mussel shells, however, indicate that these changes are unprecedented and the lack of a clear causal variable underscores the need for better quantifying carbon dynamics in nearshore environments."

And this -assuming the age of the water tested is correct-:

"However, the magnitude of the d13C change recorded in mussel shells (20.71 % per decade) is much greater than the observed 0.15 % per decade decrease for global ocean seawater [18] suggesting this (fossil fuel CO2) cannot be a sole mechanism."

The one thing I think has been shown is that disease, over harvest, reef destruction and depensation were incapable of opening the funding floodgates--despite on the east coast seeing a 99% crash in oyster populations over the last century. Despite the clear evidence of cause and effect and the central and vital role played by oysters in our estuaries. Ocean acidification-a theoretical problem at best and poorly correlated to oysters-seems to have solved this problem. Great for grant seekers- bad for oysters. Very bad for the health of our estuaries.

We seem to have two different goals- I seek to reestablish oysters as the key stone species of our estuaries attacking the problems we know exist while trying to further research efforts into the depensatory effects that impede restoration. You seem to be looking for another reason to attack fossil fuels. I am saddened by your seeming willingness to sacrifice oyster restoration to that goal.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 30 Nov 2011

Pat Moffitt, clearly you are confused on this issue. The chemical analysis by Burke Hales (detailed in Elizabeth Grossman's post) clearly establishes that pH was much, much lower than what would have been expected. This obviously has implications for oyster mortality, as a number of scientific experiments attest to (see Whitman-Miller [2009], for example).

The analysis by Pfister (2011) also shows pH in the region at levels much lower than would be anticipated. The fact that they cannot yet pinpoint causes of the greater-than-expected change in pH, should be a matter of concern, not dismissal. Not surprisingly, you simply gloss over the evidence showing that the current decline in pH at Tatoosh Island is unprecedented in 1340 years. No doubt further research will get to the bottom of this alarming drop in pH, but given that humans have significantly altered the chemistry of the oceans through the burning of fossil fuels, there's unlikely to be any get-out-jail-free card.

That oyster die-offs are connected to ocean acidification is no great surprise, indeed the work of Talmage & Gobler (2010) indicate that shellfish in pre-industrial times fared much better than their modern-day counterparts, due to the effects of ocean acidification alone. What is surprising is that ocean acidification, in some parts of the ocean, is taking place so rapidly. In the case of the Bering Sea (Mathis [2011]) this is due to the (previously unaccounted for) effects of carbon cycling by marine organisms.

Sure, these results cannot be extrapolated to the entire oceans, but what they do show is that ocean acidification in some areas is progressing much faster than scientists previously expected.

And yes, overharvesting, poor management, pollution, eutrophication, siltation of estuaries due to land clearing etc, etc, have all played a part in the extinction of over 90% of all wild oyster reefs in the last 100 years or so. That is not what is being discussed here.

Posted by Rob Painting on 30 Nov 2011

I feel for the young students in the environmental sciences-because this is how the science dies- one silence at a time. Where are the Yale chemists and oceanographers on this? Certainly many must be biting their tongues over the claims in Ms. Grossman’s post. There were once giants among us- those like Scripp’s John Isaacs who wrote: “I have much greater faith in simple observations and untrammeled thinking than I have in sophisticated observations and simplistic thinking! And I have much greater confidence that man's relationship to the sea and its resources will be enhanced by thoughtful and observant people closely involved and broadly acquainted with the sea—scientist and non-scientist alike—than by frantic bureaucratic responses to public hysteria or by the pontification of the scientific hierarchy.”

Apparently giants no longer walk among us.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 01 Dec 2011

I think it might be time for Patrick Moffitt to, well, bite his own tongue instead of imagining for us a vast scientific conspiracy and a harkening to scientists of yore.

The science dies by one ideologue comment after another after another. By noise, not by silence. And by a medium that allows anyone to comment with seemingly equal authority, and no way for the reader to see who is who.

Comments with fake names are the worst. But a self-named individual with no affiliation or credentials listed is almost as anonymous. There is a Patrick Moffitt whose writing on environmental issues including oysters has been published by the Cato Institute. Same guy?

This kind of semi-anonymous fox-in-the-henhouse dialogue is the signal-jamming death of
science communication. It is as far as possible from peer-reviewed publication, for which there is a reason, and for honest attempts to really get at the truth, for which there is also a reason.

FYI I am at carlsafina.org, blueocean.org, and Stony Brook University

Posted by Carl Safina on 02 Dec 2011

Dr. Safina,

Now that you are here, what do you think of the evidence used to make the conclusions in Ms. Grossman's piece?

All other issues aside please.

Posted by maxwell on 02 Dec 2011

Carl –
I’m more than happy to give you my credentials spanning over 35 years in the environmental field and will send same to your email although I try not to hang my arguments on appeals to authority but rather the science. And I did write the Cato article which championed oyster and wetland restoration rather than EPAs nutrient policy for rehabilitating our east coast estuaries. If that makes me a heretic- so be it. You may dismiss “scientists of yore” however I’m both old and old school- I believe precision with respect to scientific claims is essential if we are ever to correct the many real environmental challenges we face today. If my believing this post was more PR than science makes me an “ideologue” and my questions (unanswered) were the voice of “the signal jamming death of science communication” – then I’m guilty. I never talked about a grand conspiracy but I did comment on the hijacking of very real environmental problems whose “solutions” are often forced to comply with some national narrative whether it be acid rain or climate change. Sometimes there are actually other stressors involved that need attention. I contend it has impeded many restoration activities including oysters and anadromous fisheries – something I care deeply about.

So perhaps you may end my frustration and answer my science jamming questions:

1. Are agriculture and sewage runoff the primary causative agents for the collapse of the Chesapeake oysters as Ms. Grossman claims? I said no.

2. Ms. Grossman claims “the Whiskey Creek hatchery was experiencing acidic seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing excessive amounts of CO2 from the air” given knowledge of upwelling which is associated with additional sources of CO2 - how does she know what the fossil fuel contribution was?

3. Ms Gossman continually uses the term acidic water- I guarantee you there is no acidic ocean water in Oregon. Acidic and alkaline have meanings – we should use them- and just shocked that this wouldn’t irk a chemist – especially on a site representing a University.

4. Was pH/CO2 implicated in the oyster mortality at the hatchery or was it a bit more complicated than claimed in the post including gas supersaturation resulting from the rapid heating of cold upwelling source water as the NOAA and Pacific Shellfish grower’s 2009 emergency report suggests? I say far more complicated.

5. What has been the change in pH at the hatchery and what is the band of natural variability? Wouldn’t we expect to see higher CO2 levels as well as anoxic conditions when we have an upwelling event?

6. How did Ms. Grossman age this upwelling to 30 years ago when last seen at the surface. If we assume NOAA’s contention that 25% of the atmospheric CO2 ends up in the ocean this is at most a change in a few ppmv of CO2. How can this small change be tied to the oyster mortality at Whiskey Creek?

7. Where is the evidence that aragonite was limiting at Whiskey Bay and that aragonite limitation is involved? If so was it a natural consequence of the upwelling?

8. Was it proper for this post to use a pH trend (calculated) for Aloha Bay Hawaii to demonstrate the pH decline at the hatchery (in Oregon!) or should the hatchery data have been used? Why was no hatchery evidence presented? Is it fair to say that the Aloha Bay trend is statistically meaningless when we look at natural variability over a longer time frame? The ocean can vary by 0.5 pH units and near shore waters much more than this. So I’m not sure how a decline of a few hundredths of a unit at one location is meaningful.

9. Ms. Grossman states “This underscores the fact that controlling the flow of excess nutrients into the ocean, such as fertilizers and sewage, can to some degree offset the impacts of growing acidity” So we are to set our nutrient policy and all the implications to primary productivity based on a justification that its need to control benthic decomposition? Well no- it does not underscore it- nutrients are far too complicated and important an issue to be a hostage of this narrative. I think its a scientists job to keep this type of nonsense in check.

10. Where is the evidence that the problems at the Whiskey Creek hatchery are the result fossil fuel driven increases in CO2? If this post constitutes evidence of fossil fueled negative impacts of CO2 on oysters – I’m less than impressed and believe science is best served by caution in what we claim as known. What may happen in the future is no proof it is happening now.

Please correct my error(s)

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 02 Dec 2011

As well as Pfister (2011), which is freely avaliable at:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0025766, there is also Feeley (2010) which looks at the acidification of coastal waters around the state of Washington. Copy is here:


If you check out figures 3 & 4 of Feeley (2010) you'll see the 2008 measurements reveal aragonite undersaturation (i.e seawater corrosive to aragonite-based shells like oysters) in Hood Canal, Puget Sound, and out to the estuary entrance too.

Posted by Rob Painting on 02 Dec 2011

Ms.Grossman has made an explicit claim for oyster die-off that:
“What the Whiskey Creek hatchery was experiencing was acidic seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing excessive amounts of CO2 from the air.”

Ms. Grossman’s makes no small claim because if true it would be the first documented widespread mortalities outside of the laboratory simulation. However the problems at Whiskey Creek are more likely the result of intense upwelling as the result of wind shear and Eckman Transport (and perhaps PDO phase) bringing water from depths approaching 200m. The pCO2 values of these deep waters are routinely in excess of 1000ppm and in fact on one day in June 2010 the pCO2 at the Whiskey Creek ranged from approx 400 to 1900ppm! Shifts in pH in the hatchery’s intake water -as the result of wind action and primary productivity- can also span 1.0 pH (Langdorf). While the older oyster larvae can handle up to around 600 ppm the younger spat begin to have serious problems once out of the 200 to 400 ppm range. Ms. Grossman therefore needs to demonstrate the high pCO2 values of the deep, cold upwelled waters are the result of increased atmospheric CO2, that the excess was fossil fuel in origin AND this increased amount was the trigger for the mortality. I can find no such claims anywhere in the literature -nor any support in carbonate chemistry.

As someone who once owned an aquatic toxicology laboratory the heating of the hatchery water by nearly 10C – which is done by the Whiskey Creek hatchery-would be the first place I would look and indeed gas supersaturation was identified by NOAA and the Pacific Shellfish Growers in their 2009 report. Heating cold upwelled water causes gas supersaturation leading to bubble disease and is a condition well known in bivalves. Bubbles can form in the gill filament, mantle tissue and blisters may form on the valves. And one more time for the record- there is no “acidic water” off the coast of Oregon as Ms. Grossman claims—alkaline and acid have meanings –lets use them.

Ms Grossman also left readers with the sense that problems with Pacific Oyster sets is a new phenomena—equivalent declines to the 2006-2009 period can be seen in the early 1940s, early 60s, early to mid 70’s. Ms. Grossman also failed to note that 2010 was the best year ever at a nearby hatchery Taylor Creek because of the decline in the intensity of upwelling. Not something we would expect to see given the continuing rise in CO2 levels. Unless Ms. Grossman can support her claims on the above as well as her claims for Chesapeake oyster decline- I believe a retraction is in order given the fact that this post is being carried on NOAA's website as evidence for ocean acidification, its wide dissemination to the Public and the critical nature of the claims.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 05 Dec 2011

Dr. Safina,
Perhaps you would as Maxwell requested present your thoughts on the science. You have the opportunity of a teaching moment - demonstrate how one makes "honest attempts to really get at the truth."

Posted by Pat Moffitt on 06 Dec 2011


Short answer, I think Grossman did what she should--go talk to the locals and the experts.

I expect the growers want to know what's killing their oysters. If it was supersaturated warmed water, I'd bet they'd probably looked into that. But I don't know. I am not in a position to peer review or re-research her piece.

Nor do i expect Grossman to prove a case as if she were a scientist writing for a journal, or this was a court trial. Grossman is a journalist, and I assume she is not lying when she conveys what the oyster growers and the regional scientists who've looked closely at the situation tell her. She may not be able to take us painstakingly through the science; the space provided her by the editor is probably limited. (Unlike this endless round of comments)

In broad strokes the article is consistent with the research I've seen and the true experts I've talked to. Many papers see lowering pH, and biological effects in the wild (not just in hatcheries, not just in labs).

One of the links given in the debate has found water much lower in pH than expected, but for unknown reasons. If my house is on fire, and I don't know what caused the fire, there's still a problem. Moffitt wants to dismiss the whole article, partly because we might not know why the problem (lowered pH) is so bad.

So overall, the article left me with some questions at some junctures, but I think Grossman talked to the appropriate people.

I probably won't be able to comment further due to time constraints. Thanks.

Posted by Carl Safina on 06 Dec 2011

Dr. Safina,
Ms. Grossman's article did not include any wiggle room. She made an explicit claim that additions to atmospheric CO2 levels as the result of fossil fuel use killed the oysters. This is a rather extraordinary claim with tremendous oyster restoration and policy implications.

You seem to hold a very low bar for making such claims and carefully avoid the fact that the papers you allude to -showing “increased acidification”- also clearly stated the additions of fossil fuel CO2 can only account for a very small fraction-- an important point don't you think? Every upwelling event by Ms. Grossman's usage is evidence of acidification but we are left with the unfortunate fact that upwellings can't be anything other than a sign of "increased acidification". Its just the basic chemistry of deeper waters relative to shallow waters and nothing to do with the use of fossil fuels. What is questionable is your trying to gloss over this fact. Atmospheric additions of CO2 were looked at and dismissed as a minor player in the relative acidification of current natural upwelling events. So why using your fire analogy should we focus on the variable that we have already dismissed (at least in the near term) in trying to understand the current problems of oyster set efficiency? And the fact that we have seen the same poor Pacific oyster sets repeated every few decades over the last century would seem to imply a natural process at work. Now in a hundred years at some increasing rate of CO2 increase might increasing atmospheric CO2 levels exacerbate the impact on oyster sets by some amount- perhaps. But that is not what this post says- it says the die-off at Whiskey Creek hatchery are evidence for not only CO2 additions potentially inhibiting oyster sets in some future- Ms. Grosssman goes one step further claiming it is already happening now and the single causative mortality agent. Science must care about precision.

Consider the frustration for a moment of the people trying to restore the essential oyster reef habit or overcome the ravages of the diseases MSX, Dermo and Vibrio to see this complex subject reduced to fossil fuels are killing the oysters. Such rash statements hurt meaningful restoration efforts. You have called me a signal-jamming death of science communicator for both my comments and concerns for restoration. If your response is what you call science- I wear the badge proudly.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 07 Dec 2011

Here's a relevant video on oyster mortality and ocean acidification from the University of Washington:


And yes, water corrosive to shell-building marine life is also present in Chesapeake Bay. See: Waldbusser (2011)


From the paper:

"Current average conditions within some tributaries however correspond to values that we found in laboratory studies to reduce oyster biocalcification rates or resulted in net shell dissolution"

Also, Gazeau (2011):


shows that the early life stages of Pacific oysters are sensitive to corrosive (aragonite
undersaturated) seawater, with survival dropping along with the availability of carbonate

Yes Pat Moffit, many human activities have resulted in the worldwide decline of wild and farmed oysters, and disease too, but continuing to blame this decline on anything but ocean acidification, is the epitome of denial. Especially when you are presented with plenty of links to the peer-reviewed literature. One e-mail to the scientist cited in the article, Burke Hales, is all that is needed to allay your conspiratorial suspicions.

Anyway, Skeptical Science has a raft of articles coming up on ocean acidification, and this article is cited in a few.

Posted by Rob Painting on 08 Dec 2011


So along with everything else I've been called here - now I'm a conspiracy theorist? It really getting tiring.

What makes you think I haven't talked to Burke Hales? (it would be unprofessional of me to speak for him as he was more than gracious with his time and professional when discussing this issue with me. My comments and positions here are mine- not his.)

Are you claiming that before our widespread use of fossil fuels- ocean upwelling events were not "acidification" events but rather "alkalinization" events? Or are you saying there were no upwelling events? What are you saying?

My comments here have had nothing to do with thgeneral debate concerning the threat over time of increasing CO2 levels on ocean acidity. My focus has been on the claim that the recent oyster spat mortalities at Whiskey Creek were caused by fossil fuel CO2. And the more outrageous claim that the Chesapeake oysters collapsed because of nutrients and CO2.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 09 Dec 2011

Pat Moffit - "Are you claiming that before our widespread use of fossil fuels- ocean upwelling
events were not "acidification" events but rather "alkalinization" events? Or are you saying there were no upwelling events? What are you saying?"

I think the clue here is in the result of Pfister (2011) who at Tatoosh Island, Washington found the current corrosiveness of seawater is unprecedented in 1340 years.

There are a number of papers (which will are detailed in the upcoming SkS posts) which show that the upwelling increase is related to wind and ocean circulation changes brought about by global warming.

The third factor is the eutrophication of coastal waters by fertiliser run-off and organic waste
that humans dump into the sea. This promotes phytoplankton blooms in coastal waters which
then die and fall to the sea floor, whereupon bacteria break them down, consuming oxygen
and releasing CO2 into the surrounding water, therefore acidifying bottom waters.

The problem I see is that, although there is natural variability in local weather patterns (such
as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation), the corrosive waters now upwelling along the Pacific coast are some 4 decades old since they were last at the surface, and therefore represent the atmospheric CO2 content of around 1970. What will likely happen in the future is that increasingly more corrosive water will wash up onto the coast.

This might be very,very bad news, because although native sea life have adapted to this
natural variation, the increase in oyster and mussel mortality suggests that these creatures
have been living near a threshold, beyond which they are likely to dramatically decline.

Posted by Rob Painting on 11 Dec 2011

Patrick, you are playing word games. Acidification is an increase in acidity. Increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere lead to acidification of sea water even if the seawater started out at pH8.0.

No one is saying that upwelling plays no role. It's a combination of factors including increasing acidity in response to increasing atmospheric CO2 that's affecting the oyster spat.

I have hundreds of major posts on the internet under this user name. Anonymity is irrelevant to content.

Insulting me and other folks around here won't work. It reveals that you are a bully. The truth is in the papers you won't respond to, not our little arguments here.

And the truth is not on your side.

Posted by FishOutofWater on 11 Dec 2011

Fishout of water,

If you think anonymity is "irrelevant to content"- take that up with Dr. Safina who commented:"Comments with fake names are the worst. But a self-named individual with no affiliation or credentials listed is almost as anonymous." I use my full name in posting and still not sufficient to please some. I simply asked you why you felt the need for anonymity- it was Dr. Safina that disparaged you.

I want to make sure I understand you-- are you saying that if CO2 had not increased due to fossil fuel use- that the upwelling event would not have killed the oyster spat? What caused the nearly identical oyster spat mortalities in the 1940's, 60's and 70's?

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 13 Dec 2011


So you hang your argument on the Pfister paper on Tatoosh Island that found "no clear causal variable" for the increased "corrosiveness" in the mussel proxy used (assuming the proxy has value). And states the increase in "corrosiveness" is an order of magnitude greater than can be explained by increasing CO2 levels. Doesn't this argue my point?

Answer me this- were upwelling events prior to the year1700 also acidification. Would a pre-1700 upwelling theoretically killed the spat? (assuming the non-native Pacific oysters were in Oregon)

Show me the changes in pCO2 or aragonite that accompanied the CO2 increase over the last two centuries were sufficient to cause the claimed mortalities. Show me how the small theoretically potential change can be seen outside of natural variability or changes in other ocean processes.

Is Ms. Grossman correct to say the intake water at the hatchery was acidic? Or ever use the word acidic to describe ocean waters? (outside vents)

So you now say, unlike Ms. Grossman, that "No one is saying that upwelling plays no role. It's a combination of factors including increasing acidity in response to increasing atmospheric CO2 that's affecting the oyster spat." Well I ask you- how much of a role is the anthropogenic CO2 playing? And if you can't tell me how can you defend Ms. Grossman's claims that Whiskey Creek is the smoking gun of anthropogenic ocean acidification.

So when you use acidification- we are to understand it includes both natural and anthropogenic? How do we know when you are speaking about a natural versus an anthropogenically driven process.

Lets be honest about word games here and who is employing them- we had the same problem during acid rain. Journalists ran with the narrative that no scientist dispute acid rain. It was true- because all rain is acid- it can't be anything else. The discussion was what the increasing acidity meant to ecosystems and whether the changes seen were caused by emissions or other natural processes such as afforestation or fire cycle suppression. I see the same game being played with ocean acidification- the public is being led to believe that all acidification is the result of emissions.

As someone called a bully, conspiracy theorist, science jamming communicator of death among others here - I'm a bit stunned by you accusing me of name calling. Show me where.

I am not so enlightened to say that I am the holder of Scientific Truth you seem to own. So admitting to this failing - please show explicitly where I have stated an untruth.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 13 Dec 2011

There is nothing in this article that demonstrates any causal relationship between the observed changes in pH and atmospheric CO2. The 'corrosive' ocean described is not. The use of the word 'acidification' is a scare tactic, to make the whole issue sound worse than it is. The ocean is basic, with a pH of around 8.0 to 8.1. The 'acidification' discussed here is not acidification at all; it is neutralization (pH changing towards neutral, i.e. towards a pH of 7.0). There is no scenario, at any level of CO2 predicted in the next 100 years, that will cause the pH to fall below 7.5, let alone reach 7.0 and become 'acidic'.

Posted by Chuck on 31 Dec 2011

Not only shell-forming organisms, but also the skeleton of marine creatures are affected by ocean acidification, so the entire ocean is in jeopardy.

“A half-million dollars in federal funds has helped cover the expensive work of monitoring and controlling the seawater chemistry.”

Yes, taxpayers are the ones paying for the consequences of climate change, which are just becoming more obvious in this country located in temperate climate, and are only a little taste of what’s still to come.

“Some of the largest operations, such as Whiskey Creek, are buffering the water in which they grow their larvae, essentially giving their tanks a dose of antacid in the form of sodium bicarbonate.”

But the production of such buffering agents, of course, involves energy consumption, and more CO2 release. It’s remarkable how the article ends with the oyster industry saying "We have to find a way in our industry to adapt”, but the author unfortunately leaves out the obvious question of how could all the other marine life not protected by a profitable industry “adapt” – it’s simply not possible! The only way is to stop carbon emissions and start removing them from the air, in hopes of reversing some of the damages already done. As usual, I find Yale e360 rather tame.

Posted by Maggie Zhou on 07 Jan 2012

Maggie Zhou,

You do know that they are buffering the hatchery water because of a natural upwelling event bringing water up from great depths which are naturally high in CO2. Whisky Creek saw pCO2 >1000ppm. This was not the result of increasing atmospheric CO2. And these upwelling oyster mortality events have been seen for the last 70 years.

Posted by Patrick Moffitt on 13 Jan 2012

The only way out of acidification is to immediately notice AGW and reply, with legal industrial hemp, for various food, construction, and biomass resource media, and aggressively grow switchgrass, for fuel media.

We need immediate research, into genetically-engineered botany, to facilitate production of plants, designed to re-green desertified land areas and polluted land and sea areas.

The extinction rate is already 100 times, headed for 1000 times normal. Without fast re-greening media and restriction for petroleum and prison industry and war excesses, we face collapse of first the oceanic food chain, followed by collapse of the land-food chain. Then, food fight!

Posted by Bob Gaebler on 25 May 2012

Comments have been closed on this feature.
elizabeth grossmanABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Grossman is the author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, and other books. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Salon, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Grist, and other publications. In earlier articles for Yale e360, she explored how the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster could affect marine life off the Japanese coast and reported on recent studies suggesting a possible link between prenatal exposure to pesticides and the mental abilities of children.



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