Melting Arctic Sea Ice Diluting Surface Water - Threatens Shellfish, Entire Polar Food Chain

pteropod photo

photo: Wikipedia.

Here's a not so comforting discovery: A new paper in Science magazine says that Arctic sea ice melting is starting to dilute surface waters and threatening the tiny shellfish called pteropods that are the base of the Arctic food chain. Those small swimming snails get eaten by fish, which in turn get eaten by polar bears and seals. Yeah, not so good:In addition to pteropods, report co-author Fiona McLaughlin told Reuters that mussels and clams on the sea floor could also be affected.

McLaughlin's research shows that there is now evidence for falling concentrations of aragonite -- the result of surface waters becoming more acidic because of the sea ice melting -- making it more difficult for the shellfish to maintain their shells.

Small Acidity Changes Spell Trouble for Shellfish
For some context: Other recent research shows that even small changes in ocean acidity can hurt shellfish growth. Under conditions expected by the end of this century, lab experiments indicate clams, scallops, and oysters have a 50% lower chance of surviving to maturity.

Here's the original paper: Aragonite Undersaturation in the Arctic Ocean: Effects on Ocean Acidification and Sea Ice Melt [subscription or pay-per-article required]

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