Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 221-231

Biocalcification in the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in Relation to Long-term Trends in Chesapeake Bay pH

  • George G. WaldbusserAffiliated withCollege of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University Email author 
  • , Erin P. VoigtAffiliated withSoutheast Coast Inventory and Monitoring Network, Fort Sumter National Monument
  • , Heather BergschneiderAffiliated withCollege of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University
  • , Mark A. GreenAffiliated withDivision of Natural Sciences, St. Joseph’s College of Maine
  • , Roger I. E. NewellAffiliated withHorn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduce pH of marine waters due to the absorption of atmospheric CO2 and formation of carbonic acid. Estuarine waters are more susceptible to acidification because they are subject to multiple acid sources and are less buffered than marine waters. Consequently, estuarine shell forming species may experience acidification sooner than marine species although the tolerance of estuarine calcifiers to pH changes is poorly understood. We analyzed 23 years of Chesapeake Bay water quality monitoring data and found that daytime average pH significantly decreased across polyhaline waters although pH has not significantly changed across mesohaline waters. In some tributaries that once supported large oyster populations, pH is increasing. Current average conditions within some tributaries however correspond to values that we found in laboratory studies to reduce oyster biocalcification rates or resulted in net shell dissolution. Calcification rates of juvenile eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, were measured in laboratory studies in a three-way factorial design with 3 pH levels, two salinities, and two temperatures. Biocalcification declined significantly with a reduction of ∼0.5 pH units and higher temperature and salinity mitigated the decrease in biocalcification.


Biocalcification Bivalve Chesapeake Bay Estuarine acidification Oyster pH