Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 221–231 | Cite as

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

  • George G. WaldbusserEmail author
  • Erin P. Voigt
  • Heather Bergschneider
  • Mark A. Green
  • Roger I. E. Newell


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 



This research was supported by a National Science Foundation award #OCE-0622999 to MAG and GGW and The Geneva Boone Endowed Award Fund to EPV by St. Mary’s College of Maryland. We thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful and critical feedback on a previous version of this manuscript. We thank M. Luckenbach and S. Bonniwell of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science-Eastern Shore Laboratory for providing juvenile oysters. Components of this research were conducted as an undergraduate senior research thesis by EPV in partial fulfillment of requirements for a B.A. GGW would also like to thank Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, where this work was conducted.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • George G. Waldbusser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Erin P. Voigt
    • 2
  • Heather Bergschneider
    • 1
  • Mark A. Green
    • 3
  • Roger I. E. Newell
    • 4
  1. 1.College of Oceanic and Atmospheric SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Southeast Coast Inventory and Monitoring NetworkFort Sumter National MonumentSullivan’s IslandUSA
  3. 3.Division of Natural SciencesSt. Joseph’s College of MaineStandishUSA
  4. 4.Horn Point LaboratoryUniversity of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceCambridgeUSA

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