BODEGA BAY (CBS13) — Northern California scientists are worried about what’s in the water along the California coast and the impact it’s having on shellfish.

The Pacific Ocean along the West Coast is carefully studied by scientists at the UC Davis Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory. They’re concerned about the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in seawater.

“Carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean, which is a good thing for things like climate change, but it’s changing the chemistry of the ocean,” said Dr. Kristy Kroeker.

It’s becoming fizzier, more carbonated, slightly more acidic.

Scientists say historically, yes, carbon dioxide levels have changed in the ocean before, but this time it’s different.

“We don’t think anything has occurred like this in the last three hundred and fifty million years so it’s a really massive change,” Kroeker said “Part of the problem is that it’s happening so quickly.”

Marine biology PhD student Dan Swezey is studying the effect on marine life. Small blobs called lace corals live on kelp. Here, they are being subjected to different levels of CO2 and temperature. He says both fish and shellfish are sensitive to changes.

“That actually leads to their skeletons dissolving under acidity much more readily than they would have under normal conditions,” he said.

It’s not just theory, Kroeker says. There have been problems up the coast.

“There have been several large die-offs of oysters over the last few years off Oregon and Washington shelf attributed to these changes,” she said.

Researchers have placed special sensors in the ocean to send data back in real time on changing conditions.


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