A new study reveals that ocean acidification in UK waters is making sediments that are already contaminated with metals even more toxic.
The study focused on bottom-feeding crustaceans living in industrialized ports and estuaries and found that increasing levels of acidity can result in significant DNA damage to these and other animals that graze on sediments.
“The combined effect on these animals, of coping with adapting to climate change as well as increased toxin levels, could prove to be fatal,” said the study’s senior researcher Dave Sheahan from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
Cefas monitors industrialized estuaries for toxic sediments. Many of the estuaries must be regularly dredged in order to maintain harbor entrances, and the excess material is tested for poisonous metal particles.
By placing crustaceans in tanks with sediments from dredged estuaries and creating environments with current acidity levels, as well as predicted levels for 50 and 100 years from now, the researchers found that after 10 days, the animals experienced significant DNA damage. The damage rose consistently with rising acidification levels, suggesting that the combination of acid and toxic metals is very dangerous.
On the bright side, they did find that some individuals were able to adapt their behavior to cope with the changes.
“There are two aspects to our study here of interest; whether contaminated sediments and changes in ocean acidification will affect animals in the marine situation, and also whether we use these tests to make a judgment about sediments that we currently deem ok,” Sheahan concluded. “We may need to think about moderating certain activities that currently we think acceptable.”
To learn more:
- Read the full article: Rising acid in oceans is worsening industry toxins
- Find the study, published in Global Change Biology, here: Ocean acidification increases the toxicity of contaminated sediments
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