Consideration of carbon dioxide release during shell production in LCA of bivalves

  • Nicholas E. RayEmail author
  • Teri O’Meara
  • Timothy Wiliamson
  • Jose-Luis Izursa
  • Patrick C. Kangas



Life cycle assessment (LCA) can be used to understand the environmental impacts of the shellfish aquaculture and wild harvest industries. To date, LCA of shellfish exclude carbon dioxide (CO2) release from bivalve shell production when quantifying global warming potential per functional unit. In this study, we explain the rationale for including CO2 released during shell production in LCA of bivalves, demonstrate a method for estimating this CO2 release, and apply the method to previous studies to demonstrate the importance of including CO2 from shell production in LCA.


A simple approach for calculating CO2 from bivalve shell production was developed utilizing the seacarb package in R statistical software. The approach developed allows for inclusion of site-specific environmental parameters such as water temperature, salinity, pH, and pCO2 when calculating CO2 release from shell production. We applied the method to previously published LCA of bivalve production systems to assess the impact of including this CO2 source in the LCA. The past studies include aquaculture and wild harvest production strategies and multiple bivalve species.

Results and discussion

When we recalculated the total kg CO2 released in past studies including CO2 release from shell production, the additional CO2 release increased the total global warming impact category (CO2 equivalents) in cradle-to-gate studies by approximately 250% of the original reported value. Discussion of our results focuses on the importance of different components of our calculations and site-specific environmental parameters. We make predictions on how the magnitude and importance of CO2 released during shell production could change due to climate change and ocean acidification, and provide suggestions on how CO2 release from shell production can be reduced through careful selection of aquaculture facility location and aquaculture practices.


We provide a method for including CO2 from shell release in LCA of bivalves and recommend that future LCA of bivalves include this CO2 as part of the global warming impact category.


Aquaculture Bivalve Calcium carbonate Fisheries Shell 



We would like to thank Dr. Robinson “Wally” Fulweiler, who provided constructive and helpful suggestions that improved the quality of this manuscript, as did feedback from several anonymous reviewers. Kevin McLaren, Johnny Shockley, and Tal Petty provided tours of their oyster farms and provided guidance on the daily operation and needs of shellfish culture operations. N. Ray was supported on a Teaching Fellowship from Boston University and a Warren-McLeod Graduate Fellowship from the Boston University Marine Program during preparation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science and TechnologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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