Ocean Acidification Increasing Sediment Toxicity in UK

Written by on February 13, 2013 in Marine Life
Lobster pots at John O' Groats Harbour in Scotland.

Lobster pots at John O’ Groats Harbour in Scotland. Photo credit: foxypar4 via photopin cc.

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:

Caribbean Spiny Lobster.

Caribbean Spiny Lobster. Photo credit: NOAA.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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