Seminar focuses on climate change impact on marine life


Izzy ManzoCopy Editor

Climate change is impacting the development of sea creatures according to a presentation by Dianna Padilla of Stony Brook University on March 27.

Padilla, a professor in the department of ecology and evolution, presented her research in a seminar hosted by the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies. Her research ongoing laboratory research, titled “Population differences in resilience to climate change: responses of blue mussels to climate change,” discussed how global warming impacts the development of mollusks.

Padilla said that since the Industrial Revolution, the pH level of the ocean has changed by .1 units. While it may not sound like a lot, she said, when applied to a bigger scale, it shows how much of a change is happening.

“That’s about a 30% increase in the acidity of the ocean,” Padilla said.

That the increase is due to the fact that the ocean absorbs about one third of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere Padilla said.

“All the organisms that are living out there, they have never experienced the chemistry of what we’re expecting to happen to the oceans,” Padilla said. “We’re gonna see, along our shorelines, increased acidity for over a century.”

Padilla said that when too much carbon dioxide is in water, it changes carbonate chemistry. Calcium carbonate specifically is the main component of shells of marine organisms such as oysters and mussels.

Padilla said that blue mussels were chosen for her research because of multiple factors.

“They’ve been the focus of genetic and physiological studies for a century,” she said. “They are basically the model physiology species students learn about in lots and lots of classes.”

Padilla said their study has currently spanned two generations and mussels gathered from four different areas in the Long Island Sound— Milford, Groton, Stony Brook, and Orient Point. They each were exposed to three different water treatments to track how well they performed.

Padilla said, that concerning shell thickness, which is impacted by calcium depositories, they expected to see weaker shells and faster growth in mussels with a higher level of ocean acidification. However, her research showed that growth correlated with species rather than pH levels.

“There was significant differences in population,” she said. “No significant differences in shells between pH 8.0 and pH 7.6.” Nicole Gigas, a Junior, a geography major said that she had attended a previous seminar about sea urchins and was surprised to find some similarities.

“This one was interesting because it was so different, it was a different species,” she said. “It was a different organism, but they were coming to the same conclusion about climate change and what is climate change gonna do to the species.”

Biology professor and co-director of the Werth Center Dr. Sean Grace hopes that students who attended the seminar realize that ocean acidification is a real concern that needs to be addressed.

“[It’s] affecting many marine organisms, specifically marine invertebrates that help set up the foundation of many communities that we see along the coast,” he said.

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