The acidity of the Pacific Ocean is growing at a higher rate and it is a cause of concern for the Dungeness crab population. These crabs are extremely valuable found in the Pacific Northwest. Their shells are getting dissolved by the acidic water and there is a risk of damaging their delicate sensory organs.
These crabs are called cash-crabs, because they are crucial to commercial fisheries. But according to a recent study, they’re getting damaged due to the lower pH of their habitat. This injury to the Dungeness crab population adversely impacts the coastal economy. While this was being expected by the researchers, they didn’t anticipate this damage to happen so fast.
Lead author of the study, Nina Bednarsek said that we need to pay attention to all the links of the aquatic food chain. The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project’s scientist also said that if this is not done son, it may get too late.
This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funded study was published in Science of the Total Environment journal. This agency studies how varying pH levels may affect the coasts and the acidification of oceans.
Process Of Ocean Acidification
The acidic water of oceans is primarily due to more atmospheric carbon dioxide absorption. It leads to a lower pH level. Ocean acidification leads to algal blooms because of the increased availability of nutrients, high temperature, and high salinity.
Crustaceans like Dungeness crab and corals need carbonate ions to build stronger shells. But it is not readily available in the acidic water. Even the clams, oysters, and planktons too rely on carbonate ions. And we humans and other living beings depend on these creatures for sustaining our life and economy.
How The Crab’s Shell Get Dissolved By The Acidic Water
According to the researchers, the shells of young larvae of Dungeness crabs are getting damaged. Due to this, they will become prey for their predators. They would also not be able to maintain buoyancy.
It will also hinder their maturing process and cause a delay in it. The scientists also observed for the first time that acidic water destroys crab’s hairy structures. These structures are vital to them for navigating. Thus it will affect their speed of motion and food locating ability.
More research is required to know if this acidic water will affect the adult crabs too. But since their young ones are suffering damage, the Dungeness crab population is bound to take a hit.
The NOAA has 2 ways to tackle this problem of ocean acidification. One, reducing the carbon footprint in general. And two, to make the animals and people who depend on them, adapt to these changes in the pH of the water.
The agency works closely with fishery managers and policymakers, so hopefully, their findings may convince them to take rapid and instant action.
Acidic water is becoming a menace for creatures all over the globe. It is high time that our scientists come out with a solid solution to this problem.
Featured Image Credit: Theo Stein, NOAA, alphaspirit