30 Sep '12, 5pm
As the Oceans Turn Acidic, Scientists Report a Strange Finding: Hope
Working in concert, increased heat and carbon can kill critters where one or the other alone wouldn’t phase them. Edible crabs and scampi, two northern species beloved by European gourmands, can cope with higher CO2 levels when the temperature of the water around them stays below 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). But raise the temp to 18 Celsius and the crabs’ carapaces start bleeding calcium and dissolving. The scampi’s long front claws grow so weak and brittle, they snap off. Tough luck, gourmands. Even brief exposure to high-CO2 levels when they’re in the larval stage leads to stunted growth later in life for the Olympia oyster, a native icon of America’s Pacific Coast. Warming weather has already been tagged as a factor in the rise of toxic algal blooms, which cost shellfish harvesters about $100 million a year and produce occasional mass poisonings of birds, marine...